Howard University's Founders and Supporters: 
The Military and the Abolitionist Connection

by Clifford L. Muse, Jr., Ph.D.

     The establishment of Howard University in 1867 as a collegiate institution servicing the educational needs of ex-slaves and others exemplifies an important post-Civil War phenomenon-- namely, the founding of historically Black colleges and universities by white Americans who fervently opposed slavery and its invidious accoutrements. Among the pre-1877 leaders of Howard University were individuals who abhorred and rejected the evils of slavery in America and who sought its demise through participation in anti-slavery activities and in the Civil War.

     A few of the more prominent pre-1877 ex-military personnel who contributed to the growth and development of the University were Alexander T. Augusta, George W. Balloch, John B.G. Baxter, John A. Cole, Neil F. Graham, Charles Howard, Oliver Otis Howard, James B. Johnson, Joseph Tabler Johnson, Silas L. Loomis, Gideon S. Palmer, Charles B. Purvis, Robert Reyburn, Albert G. Riddle, and Joseph A. Sladen. 1

     Howard’s military connection surfaced during the earliest days of its development. Nine of the seventeen original incorporators of the University were ex-military personnel.2 Among the University’s first Board of Trustees, ten of the seventeen members were ex-soldiers.3

     Four African American leaders who played significant roles at Howard during the pre-1877 period were the eminent John Mercer Langston and Francis L. Cardozo, who engaged in anti-slavery activities, and the noted abolitionists Frederick Douglass and the Rev. Henry Highland Garnet.

     The following data highlights some of the important contributions Howard’s early anti-slavery founders and supporters made to its growth and development.


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August 2000