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.[7]  Of greater historical significance, Howard’s 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.[8]  Howard’s 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, Howard’s incorporators are justifiably identified as men of noble vision who perceived the University’s 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 Howard’s creation was directed toward African Americans. Howard’s Christian founders proffered the university as an educational vehicle that African Americans had to support and actively participate in its development.[9]  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.[10]

     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.[11]  The university enrollment by 1910 reached 1, 382.[12] 

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August 1999