Spelman College was founded 135 years ago today. Initially funded by the John D. Rockefeller family, the school was opened as a place of higher learning for Black women in Atlanta. Since it’s opening on April 11, 1881, Spelman College has served as one of the top private colleges in the nation.
In honor of Spelman’s Founder’s Day, we highlight 10 powerful women who attended Spelman College.
Before beginning an accomplished career as a writer, Alice Walker received a full scholarship to Spelman College in 1961. She eventually became a vocal member of the burgeoning Civil Rights movement in Atlanta before finishing her college career at Sarah Lawrence College.
Rosalind Brewer earned a degree in chemistry from Spelman in 1984 before attending Stanford Law School. She began her career as a scientist before becoming the president of Walmart East. She is currently the CEO of Sam’s Club and the first Black woman to ever hold such a position.
Actress Esther Rolle began her college studies at Spelman College in 1942. She eventually transferred to Yale before becoming a staple on Broadway and starring in the TV classic, “Good Times.”
Pearl Cleage attended Spelman from 1969-71 before becoming a novelist and playwright. She has written 12 books and six plays. Her book, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, was chosen by the Oprah Book Club.
The daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bernice King earned a degree in psychology from Spelman College before continuing her father’s work as a new age Civil Rights leader.
Ruth A. Davis
Ruth A. Davis graduated in 1966 from Spelman before establishing a career as a U.S. Diplomat. Davis was appointed as Director General of the Foreign Service by President Bush in 2001. She has received several noted awards including the U.S. Secretary of State Achievement Award and U.S. State Department Equal Employment Opportunity Award.
Mattiwilda Dobbs graduated Spelman in 1946 with a degree in Spanish and music before beginning a storied career as a world-renown opera singer. Dobbs is also the aunt of Atlanta’s first Black mayor, Maynard Jackson.
Marian Wright Edelman
Edelman attended Spelman in the 1960s before becoming an active leader in the Civil Rights movement. She founded the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000.
Evelynn M. Hammonds
Hammond earned a degree in physics from Spelman in 1976 before earning her masters from MIT. She would later serve as founding director of MIT’s center for the Study of Diversity in Science, Technology and Medicine. She also became dean of Harvard College in 2008.
Christine King Farris
Dr. Martin Luther King’s eldest sister, Farris attended Spelman College in the late 1940s before becoming a vocal leader for the SCLC and NAACP. She has written several books and has also taught at Spelman College.