Saluting Spelman: Women Who Serve Since 1881

Spelman Class of 1892
Spelman Class of 1892

On April 11, 1881, Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary was founded by Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church. The school grew quickly, moving to its present site in 1883 and like many of its other black college contemporaries, boasted a “Model School” for the training of student-teachers.  The following year the school’s name was changed to Spelman Seminary in honor of Mrs. Laura Spelman Rockefeller and her parents Harvey Buel and Lucy Henry Spelman who were longtime activists in the antislavery movement. Its final name change occurred in 1924, when the school became Spelman College.

Today, Spelman is the leading educational institution for African-American women in the nation. Ranked among the top liberal arts schools in the country by the U.S. News and World Report, and among the top 10 best women’s colleges in the country by Forbes magazine, Spelman is also notably a part of the Atlanta University Center.

Spelman’s legion of distinguished alumnae includes Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker, Children Defense Fund Founder Marian Wright Edelman, Spelman College President Emerita Audrey F. Manley and actresses Ester Rolle and LaTanya Richardson.

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A member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Crystal A. deGregory, Ph.D. is a graduate of the historic Fisk University ’03. She received her master’s and doctoral degrees in history from Vanderbilt University. She also holds a master of education degree in curriculum and instruction from Tennessee State University, ’14, where she formerly taught in the department of history, geography and political science. A professional historian and passionate HBCU advocate, she is editor-in-chief of the forthcoming The Journal of HBCU Research + Culture. She is also a regular contributor to HBCU Digest, is a co-host of Black Docs radio show, and offers a wide-range of expertise on multiple topics including history, culture, education, black fraternity and sorority life and of course HBCUs. Follow her on twitter at @HBCUstorian, visit her website at, or contact her via email at