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Jane Anna Granderson and Claudia White Harreld, Class of 1901

April 2020

Spelman College's First Graduates Jane Anna Granderson and Claudia WhiteTo kick off  Spelman College's Founders Week, we are spotlighting the first college graduates from Spelman Seminary -- Jane Anna Granderson and Claudia White Harreld. These outstanding scholars received their degrees in 1901 and joined a group of just 5,000 Black college graduates in the United States at the time.

The Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary began with basic schooling focused on providing literacy and other fundamental knowledge, like arithmetic and even personal health care. Gradually, as our resources and faculty grew, and we became Spelman Seminary in 1884, our curriculum evolved as well to include more advanced subjects such as rhetoric, psychology, chemistry and Latin.

Eventually, a comprehensive college department was established in 1887, and two students -- Jane Anna Granderson from Mississippi and Claudia T. White from Georgia, enrolled as our original first-year collegiate class.

After successfully commencing as our inaugural college graduates in 1901, these pioneers went on to pay their education forward. Granderson taught at Spelman from 1902 until her untimely passing in 1905. She was a young scholar of great promise who had spoken in Northern churches for the Woman’s American Baptist Home Mission Society, and made many dear friends there and at Spelman.

Spelman Women Who Chose to Change the World

Spelman's First Graduates Jane Granderson and Claudia White

Harreld was associated with Spelman since she first began high school in the Seminary in 1890, until she passed in 1952. Her life-long devotion to Spelman was largely inspired by her father, William J. White, who was a founder of Morehouse College, elected vice president of the Board of Trustees at Spelman in 1888, and one of Spelman’s early philanthropists.

Destined to serve her alma mater, Harreld taught in the early 1900’s, and became the second president of our Alumnae Association in 1923. She supported Spelman in a multitude of capacities, including working as a student adviser, preparing alumnae records on graduates as the first alumnae secretary for the College, and serving as an officer of the Atlanta Spelman Club.

She attended nearly every program sponsored by Spelman, and all the campuses in the entire Atlanta University System, and was a well-known figure beloved by generations of Spelman College students and alumnae who followed in her and Granderson's footsteps.

A Servant Leader With Influence Beyond the Spelman Gates

Harreld's influence did not stop at Spelman’s gates. She also dedicated her life’s work to uplifting all disenfranchised people -- particularly those in the Atlanta community. She valued every human life and was determined to do what she could to ensure they received the respect and equity they deserved.

She was instrumental in spearheading an abundance of community initiatives, and served on the boards of numerous organizations. She was chairman of the finance committee of the Georgia Study of Negro Child Welfare, Chairman of the Colored Women’s Committee, and member of the Committee on Colored Work of the YWCA, just to name a few.

Especially concerned about working mothers, Harreld served for twenty years on the Board of Directors of the Gate City Day Nursery Association. She worked tirelessly to realize her dream of helping mothers to financially provide for their families without sacrificing quality care for their children. 

For the above-mentioned accomplishments, and many more, Claudia White Harreld was a shining example of a woman who took seriously, the "Choice to Change the World," and was deeply committed to the continued development of society and of Spelman College.

We believe she would be proud to see just how far we’ve come, as we continue to evolve and envision our next 139 years.

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