HathiTrust has digital copies of early Atlanta University catalogs--the source for the seal at right. Era of Progress and Promise contains a profile of the school.
The Rise and Progress of Negro Colleges in Georgia, 1865-1949 by Willard Range extends the school history.
Atlanta University was chartered in 1867 and opened to 89 students in the spring of 1869. Founded by Yale graduate Edmund A. Ware, it was under the direction of the American Missionary Association. Range lists three goals of the new school: to develop individual Negro talent, to provide inspiration and leadership for Negro communities, and to train teachers.
Because of the low level of education among post-Civil War Blacks, Atlanta University served primarily as a sub-collegiate school for a number of years. In 1889, for example, out of a student body of 466, half were grammar school students with another 88 in primary grades. Only 19 students were listed as collegiate.
The 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.
All preparatory males were required to take industrial training classes; all preparatory females were required to take domestic science classes. Students in the normal division were usually employed in area schools during the summer. To meet the goal of providing leadership in the community, Atlanta University sponsored the Atlanta Conference each summer so that AU students met with other educators and community leaders to discuss a specific problem relating to the Black experience such as “The Negro in Business” or “The Negro Artisan.”
Range notes that there were 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. But by 1988, Atlanta University was experiencing financial difficulties and so formally merged with Clark University, becoming Clark-Atlanta University.
Students from Atlanta University. The ten students in gowns are surely college graduates. The female students in white dresses are likely normal graduates. Image is from Era of Progress and Promise. http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p249901coll37/id/4464 last accessed 12-6-2017
Bricks and Mortar
Atlanta University began on West Mitchell, about a mile from downtown Atlanta. The brick North Hall opened in 1869. Planned as the girls ‘dormitory, it housed all students the first year. A year later South Hall opened for the 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.
In 1929 Atlanta University moved a short distance to become the hub of the Atlanta University Center. Morris Brown College moved into the old Atlanta University campus. Stone Hall—now Fountain Hall--is still part of that campus.
Drawing of Atlanta University buildings from the 1887 catalog. Stone Hall is the middle building flanked by South Hall (left) and North Hall. Stone Hall was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101067479749;view=1up;seq=284;size=125 last accessed 12-6-2017
Team name: Crimson Hurricane
Colors: Steel Grey and Crimson
College Football Data Warehouse gives games from 1892, but the earliest I could find was 1896—a victory over Tuskegee. Early Atlanta University schedules included Atlanta Baptist (now Morehouse), Clark, Talladega, Claflin, and Fisk. Only Tuskegee scored against the 1900 team. The 1902 team defeated Talladega 17-6 to become “Champions of the South.” The 1922 team won all six games played.
In 1902 the Savannah Tribune noted that Atlanta University was a smaller school than most opponents, and that its academic standards for players were more stringent. In 1922 the paper argued, that AU’s level of sportsmanship was also higher.