Howard University Historic Images: A Brief Reflection

"Howard University." (Photo Credit: The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1880.)

“Howard University.” (Photo Credit: The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1880.)

"Scenes at the Howard Playground." (Photo Credit: The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1927.)

“Scenes at the Howard Playground.” (Photo Credit: The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1927.)

"Profession of dental surgery; Students practicing in the Dental Infirmary, prior to taking their degree, Howard University, Washington, D.C." (Photo Credit: The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1917.)

“Profession of dental surgery; Students practicing in the Dental Infirmary, prior to taking their degree, Howard University, Washington, D.C.” (Photo Credit: The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1917.)

"The Annual Dance of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity." (Photo Credit: The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1927.)

“The Annual Dance of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.” (Photo Credit: The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1927.)

"A crowd witnessing the Howard-Lincoln football game; Thanksgiving Day, 1926." (Photo Credit: The New York Public Library Digital Collections)

“A crowd witnessing the Howard-Lincoln football game; Thanksgiving Day, 1926.” (Photo Credit: The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1927.)

By Paul “Tru1P” Holston

As a current college student attending Howard University, considered to many as the “flagship” HBCU, I cannot help, but to feel the historical energies and spirits that roam throughout its land every time I walk on campus. From its original establishment on March 2nd, 1867, this institution has changed in countless, innovative ways in the current 21st century. At times, I feel that it is very necessary to look back on its documented legacy to gain further knowledge and truly appreciate its creation for people of color, especially for both the Black community and culture. As I glanced at this online New York Public Library Digital Collections, I was astounded by the amount of historical images this platform held (which is well over 187,000 free images for anyone to use). As I skimmed through some of the categories, of course, anything related to Black history or content attracted my eyes. Of course my mind wondered if this huge public domain had anything related to the institution known as “The Mecca.” Though not many, there is indeed a good group of images that are documented about Howard, and these five images above stood out to me the most for me to share and express my views.

Although not an entire representation of Howard University, these historical images found display different aspects that spread across the university to this day. From the world-renowned clock tower above Founder’s Library, this is the landmark that pops up in many minds when thinking about Howard. It is a symbol of many aspects, depending on how one views it, and two traits that first come to my mind is patience and hope. Patience is represented for the students who attend “The Mecca” to strive for maximum achievement through their studies and aspirations each semester, which will accumulate to the ultimate goal of earning their well-earned degree. Hope is represented for not only students, but for all across the nation and world to exemplify the institution’s four core values in their life and for those around them: Excellence, leadership, service, and truth. The visual of the Howard playground displays the university’s ability to connect with the community around them, which is Washington, D.C. At a time where many disparities and challenges were faced during the 20th century, this playground is a small, yet impactful example of how Howard University contributed towards the community they were surrounded in. The image of dental students adds on towards Howard giving back and further contributing to their community by becoming the professionals that were desperately needed in the Black communities who were not able to go to white dental clinics. By testing their newly, proclaimed expertise in the dental field before receiving their degrees, the fact that all the students were Black is a sight to be proud of. Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, a Black greek letter organization, displays an example of unity and building foundation along with enjoyment in its annual dance photo. Black greek letter organizations (BGLOs) would be a vital contribution towards Howard University as five of the nine BGLOs from the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), a collaborative organization of nine historically African-American, international Greek lettered fraternities and sororities, would be founded there. The final photo of a football game between Howard University and Lincoln University shows the sport enthusiasm that Black colleges display when competing against each other in a friendly, competitive environment.

It is without question that Howard University holds priceless, Black history inside and out. From its landmark buildings including Founder’s Library, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC), and Frederick Douglass Memorial Hall, to the well-known “Yard,” one can feel the energies and spirits all-across Howard University if one mediates on its grounding. Though these images do not show “The Mecca” in its entirety, if anything, it should spark one’s mind to further seek its history and gain its invaluable knowledge it holds.

[T]imeless.
[R]evolutionary.
[U]nderground.
[1]
Always
[P]ositive.
-Tru1P

 

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