|Under its congressional charter, Howard
was affirmed as " a university for the education of youth in the liberal arts and
sciences" with an original configuration of normal, collegiate, theological, law,
medicine, and agriculture departments. Of
greater historical significance, Howards incorporators, who also comprised the first
Board of Trustees, confirmed their faith in the institution by adopting a policy ensuring
the University forever open to all individuals irrespective of race, sex, creed or
national origin. Howards founding
policy guaranteed its unique position in higher education as the first American university
operating on the basis of a non-discriminatory admissions policy. Because of this
extraordinary credo, Howards incorporators are justifiably identified as men of
noble vision who perceived the Universitys creation as symbolizing several societal
challenges of the period: the challenge of African American participation in the
university educational process; the challenge of creating and sustaining a biracial
allegiance to support a diverse university community; the challenge of financial
institutional solvency in a complex societal environment; and the challenge of completing
successfully a bold experiment of cosmopolitan dimensions.
The first societal challenge arising from Howards creation was directed toward African Americans. Howards Christian founders proffered the university as an educational vehicle that African Americans had to support and actively participate in its development. For the founders, Howard was one instrumentality enabling African Americans to pursue their long-sought aspirations of individual self-sufficiency, of producing educated race leaders and cadres of professional men and women, and of producing a knowledge-based consciousness and intellectual foundation affording the race the capability of successfully existing, interacting and prospering in American society.
African Americans met the founders challenge. From 1865 to 1910, they, and many others, eagerly applied for admission into Howard. Males and females, old and young, single and married, white and black, native and foreign, and individuals of literate, semi-literate and illiterate capacities engaged in the Howard experience. The university enrollment by 1910 reached 1, 382.