Today is the birthday of the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary a.k.a. Spellman College.
Founded in 1881 in the basement of a Baptist Church, the seminary has become one of the leading colleges for women in the South, and is the oldest historically black college for women in the US.
Harriet Giles and Sophia Packard started the school in what remained of a Union encampment, and the school was supported by the American Baptist Women’s Home Mission Society.
They had 11 students and $100.oo. The money came from a church in Metford, MA.
Packard and Giles made another trip looking for support and met a wealthy Northern Baptist. His name was John D. Rockerfeller. He made a considerable donation.
Three years later, when the school had moved to a nine acre property in Atlanta, Rockerfeller came a calling, and was so impressed he ‘settled’ the debt on the property.
The school was so grateful they changed the name to Spellman Seminary, in honor of Rockerfeller’s wife, Laura Spellman. Mrs. Rockerfeller had been a student at Oread College in MA, where Giles and Packard had originally taught.
Spellman’s parents, long time anti-slavery advocates, also helped fund the school.
The interest of the Rockerfellers garnered interest from their friends, and more donations followed.
Now, 131 years later, Spellman College is not only the core of the Atlanta University Center, it is ranked 59th in the US News and World Reports ranking of American Liberal Arts colleges, and is number one on the list of historically black colleges.
They have amassed a endowment fund of $291 million.
30% of the students come from Georgia. 74% of them graduate, 91% are African-American, and 100% are female.
Some notable grads are; Alice Walker who wrote The Color Purple, actress Esther Rolle, Audrey Manley – acting Surgeon General of the US, and Elynor Williams – the VP of Public Responsibility at Sara Lee.
And really, who doesn’t love Sara Lee?
So, Happy Birthday, Spellman – thanks for keeping the GA GPA UP!