Social justice is the found-ation on which Howard University School of Divinity was built. The School traces its history back to the schooner Amistad and the New England Congregationalists. The American Missionary Assn. (AMA) was founded by a group of New England Congregationalists in 1839-1840 after they suc-cessfully advocated for the free-dom of the slaves held captive aboard the Amistad.
This group of Congregationalists met in 1866 during a prayer meeting to discuss the training of religious leaders to meet the spiritual needs of newly freed slaves. While the initial plan was to teach religion, the scope was broadened to include education and liberal arts. Thus was the founding of Howard University in 1867. The founding of Howard University School of Divinity followed in 1870.
From its very beginning, women played an integral part in the School's history. The first female graduate was Bell J. Conrad, who received the Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1921. She was preceded by Ruth Haven and Elnora Carter, who completed the certificate and diploma programs, respectively.
Accredited in 1940, HUSD is one of the oldest fully-accredited theological schools - and the oldest historically Black school - affiliated with the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Additionally, it is the only African-American theological school connected to a comprehensive category I research institution.
As one of the University's 12 schools and colleges, HUSD enrolls students from diverse backgrounds and denominations in pursuit of their Master of Arts in Religious Studies, Master of Divinity or Doctor of Ministry degrees. The School offers an unparalleled educational experience that not only reflects the African-American cultural and religious tradition, but also the foundations of excellence promoted throughout Howard's history and the unique opportunity afforded by its location in the nation's capital. Upon graduation, HUSD students are well prepared for pastoral ministry, university, hospital and military chaplaincies, teaching, or research vocations.
In line with HUSD's tradition of producing scholarly pastors and religious leaders who are consistently at the forefront of global societal change is the envisioned Ph.D. program. The program will produce scholars who are equipped to teach religion at universities throughout the world and promote research, writing and reflection that will ensure that religious literature, discussion and thought are sensitive and responsive to the needs and voices of the African-American community. The three critical areas of focus for this program are: biblical studies, African-American religious studies, and ethics and public policy.
Indeed, it is because of the capable leadership throughout its history that HUSD continues to stand as a reputable and respected institution of religious education throughout this nation and world. In 1934, Dr. Benjamin Mays assumed the position of dean, becoming the second African-American dean of the School of Religion at Howard University. Dr. John B. Reeve was the first (1871-1875). Under Dr. Mays' guidance, the School underwent significant changes in its physical and academic composition, including the initial accreditation of the School in 1940. Following Dr. Mays, former deans include William Stuart Nelson (1940-1949), Frank T. Wilson (1950-1957), Daniel G. Hill (1957-1964), Samuel L. Gandy (1965-1974), Talbert O. Shaw (acting, 1975), Lawrence N. Jones (1975-1991), Clarence Newsome (1992-2003), Evans Crawford (interim, 2003-2004), and Bertram Melbourne (interim, 2004-2007), each bringing his individual expertise and gifts to add to the School's rich history.
Howard University School of Divinity, a graduate theological and professional school, educates and forms academic and religious leaders to serve the Church and society, and to celebrate the religious and cultural heritage of African-Americans, the African Diaspora, and Africa.
Howard University School of Divinity seeks to be a global leader in theological education in a community driven by intellectual rigor, a passion for justice and freedom, and a relentless search for truth.
A Defining Vision - Presented in Eight Commentaries by
Dean Alton B. Pollard, III
updated: April 7, 2015