Howard University:
"Capstone of Negro Education"
During World War II

by Gregory Hunter
[Edited by Clifford L. Muse, Jr., Ph.D.]

     Howard University, like other American organizations, had to adjust to the entry of the United States into World War II. The University’s call-to-arms forced it to implement war-related programs and to pursue specific objectives that would benefit the war effort. The following excerpts from an article by Gregory Hunter in the Winter 1994 issue of the Journal of Negro History (Vol. LXX1X, No. 1) provide a glimpse of the war-environment transformation that occurred at Howard.

...As the danger of a world conflict loomed in the thoughts of students and faculty at Howard, time was passing and the day was rapidly approaching when the United States would enter the war. In January of 1940, in light of the pressing situation, President Johnson appointed the University-Wide Committee on Education and National Defense 16. James M. Nabrit, secretary of the University, became the chairman. The committee was charged with the responsibility of studying and making recommendations concerning "all aspects of the relationship of Howard University to the National Defense program17. The Committee was composed of six sub-committees: Air Raid Protection, Women in National Defense, Military Service Problems, Education and Morale, Conservation of Cultural Resources, and Physical Fitness and Recreation18.

     At the same time, the school began sponsoring services for students and faculty to build morale. Faculty members from different departments conducted a series of lectures under the theme: "The Negro in the Present World Crisis." The College of Liberal Arts also inaugurated a series of lectures entitled "Orientation Lecture Series: The Basis of the Present Conflict," which became required for all military personnel to attend19.

     The Sub-Committee on Education and Morale sponsored the establishment of a University Center for Civilian Morale Service. Its function would be:

(a) to develop and stimulate wide use of a Library of information, where there will be assembled all available literature on the war and related issues; (b) to promote forums, lectures, round-table discussions, etc.  on issues relating to the war, and (c) to maintain cooperative relations with civic organizations, defense councils and other such groups in the District of Columbia 20.


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November 2000