When Andrew Carnegie and John T. Baldwin, well-known supporters of Booker T. Washington, became associated with Howard as donor and trustee respectively, it was argued that Howard’s days as a true university were numbered. Fears intensified when President Thirkield eliminated the traditional curriculum in the College of Arts and Sciences that emphasized Latin, Greek and mathematics, and simultaneously built (in 1910) a new building for a College of Manual Arts. Alumni and students opposed the new program so effectively that Manual Arts, though in new facilities, was stymied. A year after Thirkield resigned in 1912, the school was renamed the College of Applied Science, its program of trades dropped, and a new engineering and architecture curriculum developed.

     In the critical years of this struggle, articles and editorials appeared in newspapers throughout the United States criticizing the attempt to transform Howard. Du Bois and other members of the American Negro Academy spoke on the campus to fight the change. When the battle was at its hottest pitch, Thirkield moved to change the University’s seal. The connotations of the University’s motto "Equal Rights and Knowledge for All" were "radical" for that period, when the Equal Rights League was active and the NAACP was being organized. Thirkield wanted to attract the support of conservative white philanthropists, and the Howard seal, with its anti-segregation and equality theme, must have presented a problem.

     The student newspaper, The University Journal, did not fail to express its opposition. An editorial of February 25, 1910 said that Howard "was never intended for an industrial school" and that "to turn our laboratories, library and science hall into trade shops would be walking backwards….to lower our curriculum and turn our attention to shop work and domestic science alone for the sake of obtaining a few thousand dollars from some philanthropist would be selling our birthright….This we do not intend to do."

     A month later the University Journal announced triumphantly that "the last lingering sentiment of industrialism around Howard is dead" citing the recent brilliant public lectures in Rankin Chapel by Kelly Miller and W.E.B. Du Bois. The editorial concluded that industrial education at Howard had been interred in "Oblivion Cemetery."


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February 2000