Amistad’s blog series featuring the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) found in the Center’s School Newspaper Collection concludes this week with a look at Spelman College.
As someone who was born and raised in Georgia, I’d often heard about Spelman College growing up. It is also the alma mater of our current executive director, Dr. Kara Olidge. And so my journey through the newspapers of HBCUs continues with The Campus Mirror, a publication from Spelman. The newspaper began in 1924; Amistad has 9 issues with the earliest one from 1927.
It is from that March 1927 issue that I found the first thing that caught my eye. Two articles from the front were devoted to chronicling events from Negro History Week, the precursor to Black History Month. It was started by Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1926. Mr. Benjamin J. Davis spoke to the student body at Spelman about how Negro youth should be taught about politics so as to not be ignorant of political duties. Curiously, he also stated that “our immediate foreparents had more to do with governmental affairs and politics than we who are educated.” I’ve definitely heard that sentiment before. What’s old is new again, indeed. Spelman closed out the week with a program filled with music and reading a from Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “The Death Song.”
Like other campus newspapers, The Campus Mirror also contained articles highlighting the faculty, students, and alumni of Spelman College. The November 1929 issue contained an article and profile of Miss Clara Howard, a popular educator and missionary who showed a passion for learning at an early age. Her father, a skilled carriage maker, bought his freedom and then learned to read and write—skills he passed to his daughter before she’d entered school. Miss Howard was from the first Spelman High School graduating class and would later found the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College. Today there is a dorm on Spelman’s campus that is named after her (she is the Howard in Howard-Harreld Hall).
Of course, campus culture was also a big subject of the newspaper. From musical performances to campus organizations to the events of Freshman Week, The Campus Mirror chronicled a lot. One of my favorite articles found in Volume 20, Number 1 was titled “An Introduction to the Male Shortage or Freshman Week at Spelman College.” Its author, Myrene Gray, class of 1947 chronicled her first week at Spelman as she became acclimated to college life. This issue also contained an article about the close and friendly relationship between Spelman and Morehouse College, its brother institution.
The Campus Mirror also contained advertisements from businesses from nearby neighborhoods such as West End, Sweet Auburn, and the Old Fourth Ward—the center of the black middle class in Atlanta. This was a time before Interstate 20 and the Downtown Connector split neighborhoods apart. I quickly fell down a rabbit hole of mapping these businesses on Google Maps. Many of the street names have since been changed to commemorate civil rights leaders. It was easy to imagine students from Spelman and the rest of the Atlanta University Center (AUC) patronizing these businesses and being a part of the larger community.
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