Help Desk Number:
Atlanta University Presidential Records
373 linear feet
The charter establishing Atlanta University was approved October 16, 1867. The University was part of the movement to educate Negroes at the end of the Civil War, and an extension of educational efforts spearheaded by freedmen and abolitionists, and supported by black and white churches and organizations such as the American Missionary Association and the Freedmen's Bureau. The first students of the University began classes in April 1869 and by October 1869 there were eighty-nine students enrolled.
On June 23, 1873, at the first commencement exercise, four women, Julia Turner, Bettie Outlaw, Lucy Laney and Adella Cleveland were awarded certificates from the Higher Normal Department. A primary focus of the curriculum for the University was to educate teachers. The low literacy level at the time required that the University offer classes from grammar school to college level.
By the 1920s the literacy rate improved and the University was able to phase out its pre-high school and high school level courses. In 1929, Atlanta University affiliated with Morehouse and Spelman Colleges in a cooperative plan to eliminate duplication in their educational programs. Under this plan, known as the Atlanta University System, Atlanta University discontinued its undergraduate programs and devoted its resources to graduate and professional education while Morehouse and Spelman operated at the college level. During the next six decades Atlanta University established graduate programs in Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Education, Library and Information Science, and Social Work. Noted administrators and faculty from the University included John Hope, W.E.B. DuBois, James Weldon Johnson, Clarence A. Bacote, Hylan Lewis, and Samuel Madison Nabrit. On July 1, 1988, Atlanta University merged with Clark College to form Clark Atlanta University.
The Atlanta University Presidential Records document the school from its earliest origins until its merger with Clark College. The records include portions of administrative files from ten presidents, and are arranged into series by the individual presidents' names.
The records of the presidents sometime overlap in dates and may predate or extend beyond the tenure of the presidential appointment. Such dates may indicate a continuing relationship with the University, historical documents the president accumulated in carrying out his/her duties, or document the personal life or career of the person before or after the presidential appointment. The Atlanta University Presidential Records also include a series of financial papers. Complementing the University's archival records are publications and a vertical file of ephemera materials that are maintained separately.