Organization:Clark Atlanta University

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Short description: Historically Black university in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.

Coordinates: 33°45′3″N 84°24′37″W / 33.75083°N 84.41028°W / 33.75083; -84.41028

Clark Atlanta University
Clark Atlanta University seal.svg
Motto"I'll Find a Way or Make One" (Atlanta University); "Culture for Service" (Clark College)[1]
TypePrivate historically black[2] research university
EstablishedSeptember 19, 1865; 156 years ago (1865-09-19)
Religious affiliation
United Methodist Church
Academic affiliation
Endowment$74.4 million (2021)[3]
PresidentGeorge T. French Jr.[4]
Students3,920 (Fall 2019)[5]
Atlanta, Georgia
CampusUrban, 126 acres (0.5 km2)
NewspaperThe CAU Panther
|u}}rs             Red, black, gray[6]
Clark Atlanta University wordmark.svg

Clark Atlanta University (CAU or Clark Atlanta) is a private Methodist historically black research university in Atlanta, Georgia. Clark Atlanta is the first Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the Southern United States. Founded on September 19, 1865, as Atlanta University, it consolidated with Clark College (established 1869) to form Clark Atlanta University in 1988. It is classified among "R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity".[8]


Atlanta University was founded on September 19, 1865, as the first HBCU in the Southern United States. Atlanta University was the nation's first graduate institution to award degrees to African Americans in the Nation and the first to award bachelor's degrees to African Americans in the South; Clark College (1869) was the nation's first four-year liberal arts college to serve African-American students. The two consolidated in 1988 to form Clark Atlanta University.

CAU's history at a glance
1865 Atlanta University founded
1869 Clark University founded
1929 Atlanta University Center established
1940 Clark University renamed Clark College
1988 Atlanta University & Clark College consolidated, renamed Clark Atlanta University.

Atlanta University

In the city of Atlanta, while the Civil War was well underway, two literate African American ex-slaves, James Tate, and Grandison B. Daniels in 1862 established the first school in Atlanta for African American children on the corner of Courtland and Jenkins Streets in an old church building of Friendship Baptist Church the original home of First Baptist Church. Ex-slaves Tate and Daniels along with 25 ex-slave's founded Friendship Baptist Church, the first black Baptist autonomous congregation. They began holding classes in an old church building built in 1848. The building was badly damaged during the Siege of Atlanta in 1864. The school would later become Atlanta University in September 1865. When white missionary Reverend Frederick Ayer, along with his wife, arrived in Atlanta in November 1865 under the auspices of the American Missionary Association, the AMA church purchased a boxcar for $310 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and sent it to Friendship by the Ninth Street Baptist Church of Cincinnati, Ohio. The modest space of the boxcar served two purposes: a new teaching space for Atlanta University and a meeting space for the Friendship Church congregation. Tate and Daniels readily transferred their responsibilities to Ayer who was better prepared to lead the educational effort in 1865.[9][10][11]

Atlanta University was founded on September 19, 1865,[12] by two former slaves, James Tate and Grandison Daniels.[13] Two years later, Edmund Asa Ware of the American Missionary Association was appointed the first president;[14][15] and Atlanta University was chartered in 1867 with the assistance from Oliver Otis Howard of the Freedmen's Bureau. He also appointed William J. White as educational agent of the Freedmen's Bureau on January 12, 1867. William J. White was the half-brother of founder James Tate and was the co-founder of the Augusta Institute in 1867, which would become Morehouse College. He served as trustee of Atlanta University in 1869. Atlanta University—now Clark Atlanta University—is the first HBCU in the Southern United States; and the nation's oldest graduate institution serving a predominantly African-American student body. It is the first HBCU to the founded, chartered and to conferee its first bachelor's degree in the South. Atlanta University chartered October 17, 1867;[16] offered first instruction at postsecondary level 1869; first graduating class 1873, (normal school for future teachers including women); and awarded its first six bachelor's degrees June 1876.[17] Atlanta University was the first to accept women; and the first HBCU to have a women's dormitory, North Hall built in 1869. One woman earned a bachelor's degree from Atlanta University between 1876 and 1895. Seven women received bachelor's degrees from Atlanta University between 1895 - 1900.[18] Atlanta University awarded bachelor's degrees 53 years (1876-1929) before exclusively offering graduate degrees.[19][20]

A 1912 catalog shows that Atlanta University had three divisions—the college and the normal school, each with a preparatory division. Enrollment that year was 403-40 college students, 62 normal students, 115 high school students in the college prep program and 183 high school students in the normal program. At that time half of the Atlanta University alumni were employed in teaching. A group of small Black colleges in Atlanta-Atlanta, Morehouse, Spelman, Clark, Morris Brown and Gammon - each guarding its independence but each dependent on Northern philanthropy. By the end of World War I, the Northern philanthropists were demanding mergers to improve educational quality. 1929 saw the creation of the Atlanta University Affiliation in which Atlanta University took on a new role as the graduate school, with Morehouse and Spelman as undergraduate colleges. Before World War II, the Affiliation came to include other Black colleges in Atlanta. By 1988, Atlanta University merged with Clark College, becoming Clark Atlanta University July 1, 1988.

North Hall - now Gaines Hall (Morris Brown College) Atlanta University began on West Mitchell, about a mile from downtown Atlanta. Built in 1869 by architect William Parkins, North Hall - now Gaines Hall marked the first female dormitory on the campus of a co-ed school in the United States. Gaines Hall stood as Atlanta University's initial original building. A year later South Hall opened for boys. Wings were added to each in 1871 and 1880. In 1882 Stone Hall opened as the main building, containing the chapel, lecture halls, recitation rooms, laboratories and administrative offices. By 1905 four more permanent buildings had been added, including a Carnegie Library. North Hall is the middle building flanked by South Hall (left) and North Hall. South Hall was later demolished by Morris Brown College. A fire in mid-August 2015 threatened to raze the building completely. In October 2017, a court ruling returned the property to Clark Atlanta University. Stanley Pritchett, Morris Brown's former president, shows a photo of Atlanta University students taken on what is now Morris Brown's campus.[21]

Stone Hall - now Fountain Hall (Morris Brown College) Erected in 1882 on the crest of Diamond Hill on the Morris Brown College campus, Fountain Hall is one of the earlier structures for the original site of Atlanta University. Historically, Fountain Hall is significant to the city, state, and nation for its role in providing higher education to blacks in this country. It was for this reason that Fountain Hall was made a National Historic Landmark in 1975. Architecturally, this building is important as a work of G. L. Norrman. This Atlanta architect was active during the late nineteenth and very early twentieth centuries, but few of his works have survived. The three-story, red brick structure is also an excellent example of the High Victorian style, its clock tower a rare sight in Atlanta. Over its 138yrs. history, Fountain Hall has served as the location for administrative offices, as well as a number of other university activities, contributing greatly to the cultural fabric of the city through the education of its citizens.

From its construction in 1882 until 1929, Fountain Hall primarily functioned as the administration building for Atlanta University, though it contained a chapel, library, recitation rooms, and laboratories during various times in its history. It served in a similar capacity for Morris Brown College for many years. Currently, the structure contains offices, a chapel, art studios, and a gallery. Fountain Hall has been a gathering place and focus of activity in the education process of many of the mostly black Americans attending the university and college since its construction. Because of the building's location, Fountain Hall can be seen from some distance and has long served as an impressive and identifying landmark for the historic Atlanta University Center.

In the early 1930s, Morris Brown College was in financial trouble and was forced to give up its property at Houston and Boulevard. Since its affiliation with Spelman and Morehouse, Atlanta University was no longer using several of its original buildings. So In 1932, Bishop W. A. Fountain, former college president and then chairman of the Board of Trustees, and his son, W. A. Fountain, Jr., President of Morris Brown, negotiated for the college to become part of the university system and lease some of the vacant buildings on the old campus. It was after this, that Stone Hall became known as Fountain Hall, named for Bishop William A. Fountain. In the 1929, the college deeded the buildings, establishing a permanent home for Morris Brown College.[22]

The Atlanta University campus was moved to its present site, and the modern organization of the Atlanta University Center emerged, with Clark College, Morris Brown College, and the Interdenominational Theological Center joining the affiliation later. The story of the Atlanta University over the next twenty years from 1930 includes many significant developments. Graduate Schools of Library Science, Education, and Business Administration were established in 1941, 1944, and 1946, respectively. The Atlanta School of Social Work, long associated with the university, gave up its charter in 1947 to become an integral part of the university. In 1957, the controlling Boards of the six institutions (Atlanta University; Clark, Morehouse, Morris Brown and Spelman Colleges; and Gammon Theological Seminary) ratified new Articles of Affiliation. The new contract created the Atlanta University Center. The influence of Atlanta University has been extended through professional journals and organizations, including Phylon, and through the work of Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, a member of the center.

The significance of Atlanta University Center rests in the quality of its leaders, its faculty, and its graduates. Edmund Asa Ware was Atlanta University's spiritual and intellectual father. His dedication to academic excellence and rejection of racial inferiority influenced other black colleges and American education in general. John Hope, former Morehouse president and Atlanta University's first black president, is noted in every history of American education during the first half of this century. Atlanta University's most famous faculty member (1897-1910) was W. E. B. DuBois, who began the Atlanta Studies on Negro Sociology and later became the director of publications for the N.A.A.C.P.

The influential Atlanta Sociological Laboratory was founded at Atlanta University in 1895.

Clark College

Clark College was founded in 1869 by the Methodist Episcopal Church, which later became the United Methodist Church as the nation's first four-year liberal arts college to serve the primarily African-American student population. Originally named Clark University, the school was chartered and incorporated in 1877; first offered instruction at the postsecondary level in 1879; awarded its first degree (baccalaureate) in 1880 and became Clark College in 1940.[23][24] It was named for Bishop Davis Wasgatt Clark, who was the first President of the Freedman's Aid Society and became Bishop in 1864. A sparsely furnished room in Clark Chapel, a Methodist Episcopal church in Atlanta's Summerhill section, housed the first Clark College class. In 1871, the school relocated to a new site on the newly purchased Whitehall and McDaniel Street property. In 1877, the School was chartered as Clark University.

An early benefactor, Bishop Gilbert Haven, visualized Clark as the "university" of all the Methodist schools founded for the education of freedmen. After the school changed locations several times, Bishop Haven, who succeeded Bishop Clark, was instrumental in acquiring 450 acres (1.8 km2) in South Atlanta, where in 1880 the school conferred its first degree. In 1883, Clark established a theology department named for Dr. Elijah H. Gammon. In 1888 the Gammon School of Theology became an independent theological seminary and is currently part of the Interdenominational Theological Center. Clark College merged with Atlanta University July 1, 1988 to form Clark Atlanta University.


In 2020, MacKenzie Scott donated $15 million to Clark Atlanta University. Her donation is the largest single gift in the history of the institution.[25]


Bust of W.E.B. DuBois by Ayokunle Odeleye at Clark Atlanta University

Clark Atlanta University's main campus houses 37 buildings (including an art museum) on 126 acres (0.5 km2) and is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) southwest of downtown Atlanta.

Residential facilities

  • Pfeiffer Hall
  • Holmes Hall
  • Merner Hall
  • Beckwith Hall
  • Heritage Commons
  • CAU Suites East / West
  • Residential Apartments – now called "James P. Brawley Hall" when the original James P. Brawley Hall was demolished in 2007

All undergraduate students with under 58 credits hours are required to live on campus.[26]


University rankings
U.S. News & World Report[28] 293–381
Washington Monthly[29] 161[27]

Clark Atlanta offers undergraduate and graduate degrees through the following schools:

  • School of Arts & Science
  • School of Business
  • School of Education
  • School of Social Work

Clark Atlanta is the most comprehensive institution in the Atlanta University Center offering over 40 degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels.

The Isabella T. Jenkins Honors Program is a selective academic program established to provide a close-knit and uniquely stimulating community for high-achieving undergraduates at Clark Atlanta.[30]

Clark Atlanta is annually ranked on the list of The Washington Monthly "Best Colleges and Universities" and consistently ranked a top 20 HBCU by US News & World Report (No. 13).[31]

Clark Atlanta's social work graduate program consistently ranks among the 100 best in the nation by US News & World Report.[32]

Clark Atlanta's Center for Functional Nanoscale Measures (CFNM) has produced more black Ph.D.s in Nanoscale Science than any HBCU in the nation.[33]

Student life

Student body

Annually between 30 and 40% of students are Georgia residents, while the remaining come from outside Georgia.[34] Approximately 25% of students are male and 75% are female.[34] In 2018, 89% of students identified as African-American/Black, 7% identified as Other/Unknown, and 4% identified as International.[35]

CAU Experience

All new undergraduate students are required to attend "CAU Experience", which is five days of events orchestrated to help them get better acquainted with the legacy, traditions, culture, and community of Clark Atlanta University. The preeminent scheduled event is the formal induction ceremony where new undergraduate students are officially inducted as CAU Panthers. "CAU Experience" is mostly led by enthusiastic and trained student leaders known as "OGs" which is an abbreviation for Orientation Guides.[36]


Clark Atlanta University, known athletically as the Panthers, competes within the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Division II. Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football and track & field; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, softball, tennis, track & field and volleyball.

Marching band

The university's marching band is known as the Mighty Marching Panther Band. "Essence" is the dance-line featured with the marching band. The band was featured in the 2002 movie Drumline.

National fraternities and sororities

All nine of the National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations have chapters established at Clark Atlanta University. Other Greek letter organizations registered on campus include Sigma Alpha Iota, Gamma Sigma Sigma, Kappa Kappa Psi, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Tau Beta Sigma and Gamma Phi Delta.

National Pan-Hellenic Council

About two percent of undergraduate men and three percent of undergraduate women are active in CAU's National Pan-Hellenic Council.[37]

Organization Chapter Founded Status Notes
Alpha Phi Alpha Alpha Phi (ΑΦ) January 28, 1927 Active Five-Time International Chapter of the Year
Alpha Kappa Alpha Alpha Pi (ΑΠ) May 21, 1930 Active First undergraduate chapter chartered in South Atlantic Region
Kappa Alpha Psi Gamma Kappa (ΓΚ) November 23, 1948 Inactive The chapter is under an involuntary "cease and desist" order
Omega Psi Phi Beta Psi (ΒΨ) December 22, 1923 Active First fraternity chartered on the campus of Clark College
Delta Sigma Theta Sigma (Σ) May 6, 1931 Active First and oldest chapter in the South
Phi Beta Sigma Psi (Ψ) December 27, 1935 Active
Zeta Phi Beta Psi (Ψ) January 17, 1931 Active
Sigma Gamma Rho Phi (Φ) 1937 Active
Iota Phi Theta Epsilon Beta (ΕΒ) 2000 Active

Student media

The CAU Panther

The CAU Panther is the student newspaper.


CAU-TV is a public access channel licensed by Comcast to the university.


WSTU is the CAU student-run internet radio station.


CAU operates WCLK (91.9 FM), Atlanta's only jazz radio station and one of the longest running in the world.

Notable alumni

This is a list of notable alumni which includes graduates, non-graduate former students, and current students of Atlanta University, Clark College, Clark University, and/or Clark Atlanta University. It does not include other notable persons who may have attended Clark Atlanta University as cross-registered students (credit as an alumnus is not given to Clark Atlanta University, which has spurred controversy over the school's cross-registration policies).

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
Ralph Abernathy 1951 Civil rights activist [38]
Marvin S. Arrington, Sr. 1963 Politician and jurist [39]
Clarence Cooper 1964 Federal judge [40]
Brenda S. Banks Archivist, Deputy Director of the Georgia Department of Archives and History and founder of Banks Archives Consultants [41]
Ajamu Baraka Human Rights Activist & 2016 Green Party Vice Presidential Nominee [42]
Bryan Barber 1996 Director of the 2006 film Idlewild [43]
Hamilton Bohannon songwriter and record producer, who was one of the leading figures in 1970s disco music
Joseph Bouie, Jr. member of the Louisiana House of Representatives for District 97 in Orleans Parish since 2014; retired faculty member and administrator at Southern University at New Orleans, received Ph.D. from Clark Atlanta [44]
Aki Collins 1997 Assistant coach with the Marquette Golden Eagles men's basketball team [45]
Kenya Barris 1996 Creator and executive producer of ABC's Black-ish [46]
Theresa Chapple Epidemiologist [47]
Marva Collins 1957 Educator; founder and director of the Westside Preparatory School in Chicago, Illinois [1]
Dewey W. Knight, Jr. 1957 first Black department director and the only black Deputy County Manager in Miami-Dade County [1]
Mary Frances Early 1957 First African-American graduate of the University of Georgia and its College of Education was renamed in her honor in 2020 [48][49]
Wayman Carver Composer; first person to use extensive use of the flute in jazz
N'Dea Davenport Lead Singer of The Brand New Heavies [50]
Bryan-Michael Cox Prolific record producer and songwriter [51]
Amanda Davis News anchor at CBS 46 in Atlanta, Georgia [52]
Pearl Cleage Author [53]
Pinky Cole 2009 Restaurateur [54]
DJ Drama 2000 Music producer
Henry O. Flipper First black graduate of West Point [55]
C. Hartley Grattan 1923 Economist, historian [56]
Grace Towns Hamilton 1927 First African American woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly [57]
William Leo Hansberry 1921 Noted lecturer and scholar [58]
James A. Hefner 1962 Economist
Fletcher Henderson 1920 Pianist, band leader and composer [59]
New Jack Professional wrestler
Alexander Jefferson 1942 Retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and a member of the Tuskegee Airmen [60]
Robert R. Jennings President of Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University
Henry C. "Hank" Johnson 1976 U.S. Congressman, Georgia 4th District [61]
James Weldon Johnson 1904 Noted author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter and civil rights activist. Writer of the poem Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing, widely known as the "Negro National Anthem". [53]
Otis Johnson 1969 Mayor of Savannah, Georgia [62]
Bomani Jones 2001 Sportswriter, Co-Host of Highly Questionable
Kenny Leon 1978 Tony Award winning Broadway and film director. Former artistic director of Atlanta's Alliance Theatre [53]
Lucy Craft Laney Educator, opened the first school for black children in Augusta, Georgia in the late 19th century
Curtis Johnson 2008 former NFL linebacker
Walt Landers former NFL player
Greg McCrary former NFL tight end
Emmanuel Lewis 1997 Actor
Barbara Lewis King 1957 Founder of the Hillside Chapel and Truth Center and played an important role in the African American church and community [63]
Martha S. Lewis Government official in New York City and state [64]
Evelyn G. Lowery American civil rights activist and leader; marched in the historic Selma to Montgomery March
Mason "Mase" Durrell Bethea Rapper
Mary Jackson McCrorey educator, mission worker [65]
Isaiah DeQuincey Newman state field director, South Carolina NAACP, first African American elected to the South Carolina Senate after Reconstruction
Major Owens Librarian, U.S. Congressman (New York)
Dinah Watts Pace 1883 Educator [66]
Harry Pace 1903 African-American recording pioneer, founder of Black Swan Records, Insurance executive [67]
Duke Pearson Jazz pianist and composer, producer for Blue Note Records
Eva Pigford Model/actress; winner of America's Next Top Model Cycle 3
Cora Catherine Calhoun Horne 1881 Black suffragist, civil rights activist, and an Atlanta socialite. [68]
Rachel E. Pruden-Herndon Municipal court judge and attorney; first African-American woman admitted to the Georgia Bar [69]
Nnegest Likke Movie director and screenwriter
Lamont Robinson 2004 Illinois House 5th district State Representative [70]
Jacque Reid 1995 Journalist
Pernessa C. Seele Immunologist and the CEO and founder of Balm in Gilead, Inc. [71]
Amy Sherald 1997 African-American artist that completed the official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama [72]
C. Lamont Smith Sports agent, the founder and president of All Pro Sports and Entertainment
Marilyn Strickland 1992 U.S. Congresswoman, Washington's 10th District. First Korean-American woman elected to Congress in its 230-year history. [73]
Morris Stroud 1969 Former professional football player
Bazoline Estelle Usher 1906, 1937 Educator, Georgia Woman of Achievement [74]
Bobby Wilson 2004 Singer better known by his stage name Bobby V
Phuthuma Nhleko CEO of the MTN Group
Jo Ann Robinson 1948 Civil rights activist
Walshy Fire DJ, producer and member of Major Lazer
Horace T. Ward Judge and first black student to legally challenge segregation in higher education in the Deep South [53]
Walter Francis White 1916 NAACP leader
Hosea Williams Civil rights activist [75]
Madaline A. Williams First black woman elected to the New Jersey state legislature [76]
Louis Tompkins Wright First black surgeon to head the Department of Surgery at Harlem Hospital in New York City [53]
Richard R. Wright 1876 First black Paymaster in the U.S. Army and first president of Savannah State University Valedictorian at Atlanta University's first commencement ceremony in 1876. [77]
Ella Gaines Yates First African-American director of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System

Notable faculty

Name Department Notability Reference
Ariel Serena Hedges Bowen Music Professor
Enos Luther Brookes Chemistry Head of Science Dept. [78]
Carlton E. Brown Administration President Clark Atlanta University
Robert D. Bullard Sociology Ware Professor of Sociology, Director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center, and regarded by many as the "father of environmental justice." [79]
Wayman Carver Music Jazz flute and saxophone player, Music Professor (1942-1967) [80]
Pearlie Craft Dove Education Educator, philanthropist, and community service activist [81]
W.E.B. Du Bois Sociology Scholar, author, and civil rights activist [82]
Mary Frances Early Music The first African American graduate of the University of Georgia [83]
John Hope [84]
Virginia Lacy Jones One of the first African-Americans to earn a PhD in the Library Sciences
Shelby F. Lewis Political science twice Interim Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences [85]
Whitman Mayo Drama Professor
Alfred Msezane Physics Professor [86]
Ira De Augustine Reid Sociology Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department; founding director of the People's College; editor of the journal Phylon: The Atlanta University Review of Race and Culture
Henry Ossawa Tanner The first African American painter to gain international acclaim. [87]
Donda West English The mother of rapper Kanye West.
J. Ernest Wilkins, Jr. Mathematician and nuclear scientist
Whitney M. Young Jr. Dean of Social Work, prior to becoming Executive Director of National Urban League

See also

  • Panther Stadium
  • UNCF
  • List of colleges and universities in metropolitan Atlanta
  • List of historically black colleges of the United States


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  83. "University of Georgia To Honor First Black Graduate". 
  84. Kruse, Kevin M. (2005). White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 30. 
  85. "Institute for the Study of Minority Issues". Old Dominion University Libraries. 1990. 
  86. "Alfred Msezane". 
  87. "Henry Ossawa Tanner". 

Further reading

  • Atlanta University Publications: a series, which began in 1896, of studies on problems affecting black people in the United States, edited by W. E. B. Du Bois.

External links