History in Brief

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Important Milestones



  • Founded as Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary by Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles
  • School opens April 11 in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church, the Rev. Frank Quarles, pastor

  • Two more teachers commissioned by the Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society join Packard and Giles in "basement school."
  • Packard and Giles introduced to John D. Rockefeller, who pledged $250 to the school

  • Moved to present site occupying nine acres and five frame buildings
  • "Model School" to train student-teachers opens

  • Name changes to Spelman Seminary in honor of Mrs. Laura Spelman Rockefeller and her parents Harvey Buel and Lucy Henry Spelman, longtime activists in the antislavery movement

  • Spelman students print the first issue of the Spelman Messenger
  • Sophia Jones, M.D., the first black female to join the faculty

  • Rockefeller Hall dedicated
  • The nurse training department begins

  • First Spelman class graduates receiving high school diplomas

  • Packard Hall dedicated
  • Spelman incorporated under the Board of Trustees
  • Charter granted by the state of Georgia
  • Henry L. Morehouse becomes the first president of the Board of Trustees

  • Nora Gordon, the first student to become a missionary to Africa, leaves for the Congo

  • Laundry building dedicated

  • Death of Sophia Packard
  • Harriet Giles appointed president
  • Missionary training department starts
  • Quarles Library opens in Packard Hall
  • Two students from Africa, Maggie Rattray and Lena Clark, enroll

  • Teachers professional department begins
  • Spelman Alumnae Association organized

  • Giles Hall dedicated

  • Spelman's exhibit included in Negro Building of Atlanta Cotton States Exposition

  • College department opens


  • Morehouse and Morgan Halls, MacVicar Hospital, and Reynolds Cottage dedicated
  • First college degrees granted to Jane Anna Granderson and Claudia T. White
  • Graduate establishes school in Africa, which later includes a building named Spelman Hall
  • Upton Home (for nurses) dedicated
  • Death of Harriet Giles
  • Lucy Upton was appointed acting president
  • Lucy Hale Tapley appointed president
  • Granddaughters Club organized
  • Bessie Strong Hall dedicated
  • The Home Economics Department begins
  • Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Building dedicated
  • Named changed to Spelman College
  • Campus Mirror starts
  • Tapley Hall dedicated
  • Lucy Tapley retires
  • Florence Read appointed president
  • Sisters Chapel dedicated
  • Grover-Werden fountain dedicated
  • Spelman College Glee Club organized
  • First annual Spelman-Morehouse Christmas Carol Concert, December 21, 1927
  • Morehouse-Spelman Summer School begins
  • Elementary school and nurse training department discontinued
  • Agreement of affiliation with Morehouse College and Atlanta University signed April 1
  • Nursery school opens
  • High school discontinued
  • 50th anniversary celebration
  • University Players organized
  • Trevor Arnett Library dedicated
  • "A" rating given by Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
  • Death of Lucy Tapley
  • Sculpture Building opens
  • Senior bench first dedicated on Class Day
  • Spelman Students Association organized
  • Hosts conference on Current Problems and Programs in the Higher Education of Negro Women
  • Chadwick Hall acquired from Atlanta University
  • Joins list of approved institutions of the Association of American Universities
  • Hosts Atlanta Student-Faculty Conference on Civil Rights
  • Read Hall dedicated
  • Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Hall dedicated
  • Florence Read retires
  • Albert Manley becomes first Black and first male president
  • 75th anniversary celebration
  • Charles E. Merrill establishes Merrill Foreign Travel-Study Program
  • Accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
  • Cooperative agreement with Henry Grady Memorial Hospital for nurse training signed
  • First student Domestic Exchange Program begins
  • First students arrested following sit-ins in downtown Atlanta
  • Spelman students participate in Crossroads Africa Program
  • Atlanta University Center students draft "An Appeal for Human Rights" that is published in the Atlanta Constitution and other national newspapers on March 9
  • Non-Western studies program instituted
  • Florence Read's "The Story of Spelman" College published
  • Becomes member of the American Association of University Women
  • John D. Rockefeller Jr., Fine Arts Building dedicated
  • Dorothy Shepherd Manley Hall dedicated
  • Howard-Harreld Hall dedicated
  • Black Studies program instituted
  • Opening of Margaret Nabrit Curry Collection on Women in Quarles Library
  • Health Careers Program established
  • Death of Florence Read
  • Albert E. Manley College Center opens
  • Sarah Sage McAlpin Hall dedicated
  • Morehouse-James Hall dedicated
  • Guest House named after Dr. Helen Albro
  • Albert Manley retires
  • Donald Stewart elected president
  • Inauguration of Donald Stewart
  • Office of Freshman Studies established
  • Included in the Atlanta Women Exhibition, the Atlanta Historical Society
  • Sue Bailey Thurman International Room dedicated
  • Marian Wright Edelman (class of '60) first alumna elected Chair of the Board of Trustees
  • Co-sponsors "Southern Women: From Myth to Modern Times" symposium
  • Spelman College honors programs created
  • Continuing education program started
  • Centennial Celebration
  • Women's Research and Resources Center, the first at an HBCU, established
  • Academic Computer Center opens
  • Donald and Isabel Stewart Living-Learning Center dedicated
  • Donald Stewart resigns to accept the presidency of The College Board; Barbara Carter, vice president for Academic Affairs appointed acting president, 1986-1987
  • Johnnetta Betsch Cole elected as the first Black woman president
  • Gift of $20 million from Drs. William (Bill) and Camille Cosby announced
  • Spelman is listed as one of the nation's top colleges in U.S. News & World Report
  • The Spelman College mentorship program is established
  • The Office of Community Service opens
  • Spelman's flag goes into space with Mae Jemison, the first Black woman astronaut
  • International Affairs Center established
  • Nelson Mandela visits Atlanta University Center as part of his U.S. tour to raise funds for the struggle against apartheid in South Africa
  • Spelman's Community Service Program is designated White House Point of Light #563
  • Producers from Bill Cosby's "A Different World" visit campus to speak with students about script ideas for the fall season of the TV show
  • Spelman announces the receipt of $37 million from the DeWitt Wallace/Readers Digest Fund, the largest gift ever given to a historically Black college
  • Spelman is named the No. 1 regional liberal arts college in the South by U.S. News & World Report
  • Spelman receives endowment from the Bonner Foundation for the Bonner Scholars Community Service Program
  • Giles Hall dedicated on its 100th birthday
  • The Association of Medical Colleges ranks Spelman No. 5 among undergraduate programs for Black students accepted to medical school
  • Spelman makes the Top Ten list of best college buys in Money Guide magazine's "Best College Buys Now"
  • Maya Angelou Practice Theater dedicated in the John Rockefeller Jr. Fine Arts Building
  • Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching ranks Spelman as a Baccalaureate I institution
  • Spelman is one of six institutions designated by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a Model Institution for Excellence in undergraduate science and math education
  • Official opening of The Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Academic Center and the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
  • The successful capital campaign brings Spelman's endowment to $141 million, the largest of any historically black college or university
  • Dr. Cole announces her resignation as president of Spelman College
  • Audrey Forbes Manley (class of '55) becomes first alumna elected President of the College
  • Death of Albert E. Manley, Ed.D.
  • Spelman awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa
  • Becomes a provisional member of NCAA Division II in basketball, volleyball, cross-country, tennis, and track and field
  • Spelman ranked No. 2 on the fifth annual list of Top Ten Activist Schools by Mother Jones Magazine
  • Spelman ranked No. 1 by Black Enterprise as the best environment for Black collegians
  • Two Spelman seniors receive Fulbright Post-Baccalaureate Fellowships for research study abroad


  • Spelman ranked No. 2 by the Association of Medical Colleges in placing African-American students in medical school
  • Women of Excellence Leadership Series, or WEL, is inaugurated. The program is designed to provide advanced-level leadership and training to Spelman women


  • Division of Media and Information Technology established
    Professor Ayoka Chenzira, an internationally noted filmmaker and visual artist, is the first recipient of the William and Camille Cosby Endowed Professorship in the Fine Arts.
  • Spelman's Independent Scholars Program (SIS) established to conduct extensive interviews with African-American elders to capture and preserve their stories about life in the past century
    Spelman hosts the 25th International Association of Philosophy and
  • Literature Conference. The event marked the first time a historically Black college hosted the conference
  • Spelman signs partnership agreement with the University of Delaware to enrich curricular and cultural offerings in the arts at both institutions
  • Spelman's Habitat for Humanity Chapter completes its first year of operation. More than 125 students, faculty and staff were actively involved in the chapter's programs and activities
  • Spelman celebrates 75th anniversary of the Spelman-Morehouse Christmas Carol Concert


  • Albro Falconer Manley Science Center is dedicated
  • The Lilly Foundation awards Spelman a $2 million grant to establish the Sisters Center for WISDOM, Women in Spiritual Discernment of Ministry
  • Spelman and all the schools in the Atlanta University Center open the University Community Academy Charter School in historic West End
  • Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, C'70, cultural historian and founder of legendary a cappella group, Sweet Honey in the Rock, named 2002 Cosby Professor in the Fine Arts and Dr. Shelia Walker, nationally known anthropologist and scholar named 2002 Cosby Professor in the Humanities
  • Dr. Audrey Forbes Manley retires, named president emerita
  • Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum appointed ninth president of Spelman College


  • Spelman establishes Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (LEADS)
  • Spelman named in the top 100 Best Liberal Arts Colleges by U.S. News and World Report
  • Spelman receives $4.5 million NASA grant to enhance its Women in Science and Engineering Scholars Program
  • Dr. Renita J. Weems, prominent author, Biblical scholar, and ordained minister, named 2003 Cosby Professor in the Humanities and Dr. William J. Darity Jr., distinguished scholar and economist, named 2003 Cosby Professor in the Social Sciences
  • Spelman named one of six institutions to receive $4.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities to eliminate health disparities among racial and ethnic minority groups


  • Sisters Center for WISDOM (Women in Spiritual Discernment of Ministry) launched
  • Spelman's Independent Scholars Program (SIS) partners with AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) and The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights on "Voices of Civil Rights," a project designed to collect and preserve firsthand accounts of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement sponsors first national Leadership Symposium & Conference for Women of Color, "It's Our Turn"
    Packard Hall renovation wins an Atlanta Urban Design Commission Award of Excellence for 2004
  • Atlanta University Center Inc. restructured as the Atlanta University Center Consortium.


  • The Johnnetta Betsch Cole Living and Learning Center II is dedicated
    President Tatum receives 2005 Brock International Prize in Education Laureate
  • Spelbots participate in International Robocup as first all-female, African-American, undergraduate robotics team


  • College breaks ground on site of future "green" dorm
  • Women’s Research and Resource Center celebrates 25 Years
  • College celebrates 125th Anniversary


  • Descendants of Mary Mcleod Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt participate in historic conversation
  • Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female head of state gives commencement address
  • Alumna Bernice A. King establishes scholarship in honor of Coretta Scott King


  • The Suites, the College's first ‘green’ dorm opens
  • Department of Energy Alcove in Albro Falconer Manley Science Center dedicated
  • Women's Center receives $1 Million from Ford Foundation to establish endowment fund
  • Anonymous donor gives Spelman $17 Million for international initiatives
  • Chinese language courses begin


  • $150 million capital campaign, largest in College's history launched
  • Junior invents top 25 Downloadable iPhone app


  • Spelman and other AUCC institutions celebrate 50th Anniversary of The Atlanta Student Movement
  • Two seniors become first from HBCU to win the AT&T Big Mobile On Campus Challenge
  • Interlink Alliance holds inaugural conference


  • Project Impact launches
  • First African-American first lady, Michelle Obama, delivers the commencement address
  • Gordon-Zeto Center for Global Education opens
  • The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, the only museum in the nation that emphasizes art by and about women of the African Diaspora, celebrated its 15th anniversary


  • Renovation of Laura Spelman Rockefeller Hall
  • Wellness Revolution launched


  • Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell becomes the 10th president of Spelman College, succeeding Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum


  • Spelman College exceeds its comprehensive fundraising campaign goal, generating $157.8 million — the largest amount raised in the history of the institution
  • The Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement (LEADS), an anchor for leadership education and development for Spelman students and the larger community of women of color, celebrates the 10th anniversary of the center and its groundbreaking Leadership & Women of Color Conference, “21st Century Leadership: Leading Forward


  • Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum retires, named president emerita
  • Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell appointed 10th president of Spelman College
  • The Wellness Center at Read Hall opens
  • Spelman receives $2.7 million First in the World grant by the U.S. Department of Education
  • A new strategic plan called "Spelman LEADS," which focuses on leadership, excellence, accountability, diversity and sustainability is launched
  • The College receives a $2.5 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to support student retention and success


  • Spelman celebrates the inauguration of its 10th president, Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell


  • The College’s Strategic Plan 2022: “Imagine, Invent, Ascend,” was created to focus on four pillars: Deliver the Spelman Promise, Elevate the Spelman Difference, Enhance Operational Excellence and Promote Academic Innovation
  • The Riggio Scholars Program is launched to recognize the academic achievements of Spelman students
  • The College receives a $30 million gift from philanthropist Ronda Stryker and her husband William Johnston to support scholarships, faculty development, and other initiatives
  • The Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Scholars Program is launched to lay the foundation for greater inclusion for LGBTQ students at HBCUs


  • Spelman College establishes the first-ever chair of queer studies at a historically Black college or university. It is named after Audre Lorde
  • The College receives a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support undergraduate research in STEM fields
  • Spelman receives a $5.4 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation to support the Atlanta University Center Consortium's efforts to improve student outcomes


  • Spelman College launches a new initiative called "Spelman Goes Green" to promote sustainability and environmental justice on campus
  • The College receives a $1 million grant from the Goldman Sachs Foundation to support the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement
  • The Atlanta University Center Collective for the Study of Art History & Curatorial Studies is launched and serves as the leading incubator of African American museum and art world professionals in the United States and abroad


  • Spelman College moves to virtual instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The College receives a $40 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott to support student scholarships and other initiatives
    The College was named a Fulbright Historically Black College and University Institutional Leader for the 2019-2020 academic year
  • Philanthropist Patty Quillin and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings give $40 million to Spelman College — the largest individual gift to date in support of student scholarship at an HBCU


  • A new partnership between Spelman and the University of Michigan School of Public Health offer a five-year accelerated pathway program to earn a master’s degree in three public health disciplines
    Spelman receives $5 million grant from Google designed to help create pathways and opportunities for increased diverse representation in the STEM industry
  • Spelman College celebrates its 140th anniversary
  • In honor of their lifetime of achievements, Spelman named a renovated theater, lobby, dressing rooms and supporting areas the LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Samuel L. Jackson Performing Arts Center located the John D. Rockefeller Fine Arts Building
  • Spelman Ascends, the public phase of the largest comprehensive campaign in the history of the institution, was launched. With a goal of $250 million, the campaign supported scholarships, endowed professorships, technology infrastructure transformation and the building of the Center for Innovation & the Arts
  • The eSpelman Online Certificate program is launched to expand educational opportunities for adult learners


  • The College receives a $5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to support faculty development and the creation of new interdisciplinary programs
  • Spelman’s Women's Research and Resource Center celebrates its 40th anniversary
  • The Black Economic Alliance Foundation announced a grant partnership with Visa Foundation — a $5 million commitment — to support the development of the Center for Black Entrepreneurship housed at Spelman and Morehouse Colleges
  • The Dual Degree Program at Spelman celebrated 50 years of success
    Spelman College today received a $10 million grant from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation to establish the Arthur M. Blank Innovation Lab — an on-campus creative hub for young entrepreneurs and innovators.
  • Spelman College names the new 84,000-square-foot Center for Innovation & the Arts in honor of Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph. D., the 10th president of the College
  • Helene D. Gayle, M.D., MPH, began serving as the 11th president of Spelman College on July 1, 2022
  • The Jonathan Logan Family Foundation gifted Spelman $1 million to create the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation Center for Documentary Media Studies. Spelman is the first HBCU to grant a bachelor's degree in documentary filmmaking


  • Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell retires, named president emerita
    Spelman College celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Ethel Waddell Githii Honors Program, which provides academic enrichment and leadership development for high-achieving students
  • The College hosted the inaugural HBCU Game Jam, a 48-hour hackathon where participating HBCU student teams competed for industry-sponsored prizes while building their own video games
  • In celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, the College relaunched "Inside Spelman," the publication as an interactive digital and downloadable publication
  • Helene D. Gayle, MD, MPH, is inaugurated as as the 11th president of Spelman College on Friday, April 28