Howard University was founded in 1866 by missionaries as a training facility for black preachers. It was decided that the school would be named after Civil war hero General Oliver O. Howard, a white man, who was serving as the Commissioner of the Freedman’s Bureau. The bureau, which was founded in 1865, was a U.S. government agency that aided freed blacks.
Within a year, the school’s focus had expanded to include liberal arts and medical training.
On May 1, 1867, Howard University held classes with five white female students, the daughters of the school’s founders. Built on three acres, Howard University would see to the education of 150,000 freed slaves by 1872. General Oliver Howard served as president from 1869 to 1872.
It was not until 1926 that Howard University welcomed its first black president, Dr. Mordecai Wyatt Johnson. Though the school lacked accreditation at that time, it had expanded to include eight schools and colleges. Johnson served as president for 34 years. By the time he retired, Howard University had 6,000 students, a budget of $8 million dollars, and more than doubled the number of buildings and facilities.
To date, Howard University is one of only 48 U.S. private, doctoral/research-extensive universities and produces more on-campus African American Ph.D.s than any other university in the world.