the nineteenth century the nations leading universities were also against
co-education, generally excluding women, or when tolerating them at all, preferred to have
separate womens colleges such as Radcliffe at Harvard or Barnard at Columbia. Howard
defied this convention. As early as 1872, Mary D. Spackman, a white woman, became
Howards first female graduate of the medical school. In the same year, a Black
woman, Charlotte E. Ray was the Universitys first female graduate of the law school,
the first woman in the United States, white or Black, to graduate from a regular,
non-profit law school. Especially controversial was Howards posture that it was
neither a white nor a Black institution, but the nations only integrated university,
disproving by its existence the racist theories that flourished after the defeat of
The change in the Universitys seal, approved by the Board of Trustees in May, 1910, was made in the midst of a bitter national controversy about Howards future. When Wilbur P. Thirkield became President in 1906, the battle between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois on education and strategies for combatting racism was at its peak. Washington had succeeded in winning philanthropic support for Tuskegee and its program of "industrial education" after adopting a political stance that accepted the loss of Black suffrage, the imposition of legalized segregation and the doctrine of "white supremacy" in the South.
Washington had popularized the view that higher education was not appropriate for Blacks, that the Black colleges founded after the Civil War had failed, and that trade schools were the most effective and "practical" form of education for Blacks. He was attacked by the "radicals" of the Niagara Movement founded in 1905 by Du Bois, who argued for equal rights and higher education. It is hard to imagine now the depth of hostility between the two camps. It is not surprising that when Booker T. Washington was elected to Howards Board of Trustees in 1907 there was a national uproar. The militant editor of the Boston Guardian, William Monroe Trotter, denounced it as a "betrayal of the race." The Niagara Movement and the Equal Rights League declared that Howard was the national symbol of higher education for Blacks, and created a national movement for Howard to "hold the line" against industrial education.