The Legacy of Atlanta’s Historically Black Colleges

The Atlanta University Center (AUC) is a consortium of four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)—Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse University, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Spelman University. These institutions of higher education were pioneers in offering education opportunities to Black Americans, and a progressive force in the development of Atlanta’s Black community. They played a vital role in the Civil Rights Movement. Graduates have gone on to be pioneers in their fields, across all disciplines, and leaders at every level. 

Aerial view of AUC in Southwest Atlanta.

The Consortium allows students to cross-register for a broader collegiate experience. 

Clark Atlanta University

Clark Atlanta University is the first HBCU in the Southern United States, and the largest in the Atlanta University Center Consortium. It was created in 1988 with the consolidation of two prestigious HBCUs—Clark College, founded in 1869, and Atlanta University, founded in 1865. Both were cornerstones in the Civil Rights movement, and it was there that the first black student legally challenged segregation in higher education in the Deep South. 

Graduates have gone on to be pioneers in their fields and their accomplishments include many “firsts.” Some of these have included the first Black graduates of West Point and the University of Georgia, the first Black professor at New York University, first Black woman admitted to the Georgia Bar, first Black person elected to the South Carolina Senate after Reconstruction, the first Black women elected to the Georgia General Assembly and the New Jersey state legislature, and the first Black director of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System. Clark Atlanta continues to mold future generations of Black leaders across the disciplines.

Morehouse College

Bold, inspiring, men of service. Morehouse has been shaping spiritually-disciplined creative thinkers and world-changing leaders since its founding, two years after the end of the Civil War. The world’s only HBCU for men, Morehouse is ranked the leading producer of Black men who receive doctorates in education, the spectrum of sciences, the humanities and the arts. It has produced four Rhodes Scholars, college presidents, and leaders spanning many fields. It is the alma mater of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and many other distinguished Black leaders. Other notable alumni include Maynard H. Jackson, Jr., Atlanta’s first Black mayor; social activist Julian Bond and actor Samuel L. Jackson. 

Morehouse is committed to training the next generation of ethical, compassionate leaders who will go on to change their communities, the nation and the world. Students are attracted to what it means to be a Morehouse man: a brotherhood of educated Black men committed to truth, morality and justice, who want to have a significant impact on American society. 

Colorful mural of AUC students from Clark Atlanta, Morehouse, Spelman and Morris Brown College
Community Roots mural by artist Muhammad Yungai

Morehouse School of Medicine

Originally part of Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine became independent in 1981 and is the first first medical school established at a HBCU in the 20th century.

Unlike Morehouse College, the Medical School is co-ed. Its mission is to improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities, with an emphasis on people of color and the underserved populations in Georgia and across the world, and to increase the diversity of the health and research professional workforce. MSM alumni have gone on to serve in high ranking positions such as Surgeon General.

Spelman College

Spelman has been molding young female minds into successful, educated, free-thinking women since its founding in 1881. It has built a reputation as the leading educator of Black women who go on to earn doctoral degrees in science, engineering, and mathematics. 

Students are attracted to the school’s legacy of developing strong, Black women leaders. Individuality is valued at Spelman, and students have a strong sense of social justice. Notable alumni include former surgeon general Audrey F. Manley; Maj. Gen. Marcelite J. Harris, who was the first Black female general in the Air Force; and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Marian Wright Edelman. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, who wrote “The Color Purple,” Bernice King, Pearl Cleage, Rosalind G. Brewer, Stacey Abrams, Shaun Robinson and Keshia Knight Pulliam also attended Spelman College. 

The college ranks in the top 50 four-year colleges and universities for Fulbright and Gilman Scholars, and second in graduates who attend medical school. It is one of the most selective women’s colleges in the country, and has the highest graduation rate of all HBCUs. 

Spelman played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement, with its students participating in sit-ins and protests throughout the 1960s. It is also home to the only museum in the country that focuses on art by and about women of the African diaspora. 

Students enjoy a close camaraderie with the other HBCUs nearby, including a joint homecoming with Morehouse that is the highlight of the year. Prospective students can look forward to a challenging academic environment, commitment to service and community, and a welcoming atmosphere of sisterhood.  

Spelman College

Morris Brown College and the Interdenominational Theological Center are no longer members of the Consortium but are widely recognized for their role in the AUC’s rich legacy.

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