The Atlanta University Center (AUC) is the world’s largest consortium of African American private institutions of higher education. Members of the consortium are the highly accredited Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Spelman College.
The schools’ early histories date to the ending of the Civil War (1861-65) through the Reconstruction era (1867-76), when institutions were established to educate newly freedpeople. Atlanta University was founded in 1865, Morehouse College in 1867, Clark College in 1869, and Spelman College in 1881. The most recent AUC college to join the consortium is the Morehouse School of Medicine, which was founded in 1975. The school became independent from Morehouse College in 1981 and joined AUC in 1983. Atlanta University and Clark College merged in 1988 to form Clark Atlanta University.
The colleges are all separate institutions, and each has its own board of trustees, president, infrastructure, students, faculty, staff, and traditions. They are distinct and were founded at different times by separate groups for various reasons. For instance, Clark Atlanta is a coeducational institution that grants bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees; Morehouse is a liberal arts undergraduate college for men only; Morehouse School of Medicine is a coeducational institution that grants doctoral and medical degrees; and Spelman is a liberal arts undergraduate college for women only.
All of the colleges in the consortium are located in the West End Historic District of Atlanta. Although separate, these institutions are in such close proximity that certain services and resources are shared among them. To facilitate this unique connection, the Atlanta University Center was formed in 1929. The purpose of the Atlanta University Center Consortium is to coordinate collaborative efforts and to manage and administer programs and services that are offered to the institutions. Shared programs include Cross Registration, the Dual Degree Engineering Program, and the Career Planning and Placement Service, through which corporate representatives may interview and recruit students from each institution.
Centrally located is the Robert W. Woodruff Library, a modern information and research center designed to serve students, faculty, and staff. It houses one of the country’s most extensive collections of unique research and archival materials documenting the African American experience, including the Morehouse King Collection, which includes approximately 7,000 letters, manuscripts, speeches, and other documents of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Atlanta University Center claims a remarkable list of prominent alumni. Some of the most notable are educators Marva Collins, Marian Wright Edelman, and Lucy Craft Laney; writers Pearl Cleage, James Weldon Johnson, and Alice Walker; actors Samuel L. Jackson, Emmanuel Lewis, Keshia Knight Pulliam, and Esther Rolle; political leaders Ralph David Abernathy, Julian Bond, Martin Luther King Jr., and Hosea Williams; physicians David Satcher and Louis Sullivan; Olympic athlete Edwin Moses; filmmaker Spike Lee; and journalist Lerone Bennett.
The diversity of the student population, which is primarily of African American heritage, is reflected in varying socioeconomic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Geographically, students hail from across the United States and from more than fifty countries. The combined faculty of the schools totals more than 800, with a student enrollment of nearly 9,000.