Extra-Curricular Activities

Alpha Sigma Literary Society, Clark College, 1914<br />

Alpha Sigma Literary Society, Clark, 1914

Participation in activities outside the classroom was strongly encouraged by administration and faculty. Extra-curricular activities have been rich and diverse throughout the Center, promoting the students' moral, social, intellectual, and physical development. Such activities included daily chapel services, lectures, literary society meetings, concerts, debates, and the social and philanthropic events of sororities and fraternities. Dances, which eventually became popular, were in the early years prohibited as inappropriate social activity.


Debate Team, Atlanta University,  l. to r., H. H. Pace, S. P. Oliver, Peter Williams, R. M. Smith, circa 1900<br />

Debating team, Atlanta University, c. 1900; l. to r., H. H. Pace, S. P. Oliver, Peter Williams, R. M. Smith

Charter Members of Sigma chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Clark, 1931<br />

Charter members of Sigma chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Clark, 1930

Organized extra-curricular activity began on the campuses with the establishment of sex-segregated literary societies. These included the Gaines Literary Society, which was organized in 1883 and named after Morris Brown’s founder; Clark's Alpha Sigma Literary Society, which was established in 1910; and Atlanta University's Phillis Wheatley Literary Club, which was established in 1884 for girls. The societies sponsored debates, lyceum programs, readings, and other kinds of educational entertainment. In the 1920s, sororities and fraternities replaced these literary societies. Other student organizations included Morris Brown's Parnassian Society which began in 1937 and promoted the creative writing of students, Atlanta University's Young People’s Christian Endeavor Society, which was begun in 1890 for girls, the Young Women's Christian Temperance Union at Spelman and Morris Brown, and the YMCA and YWCA which were present on many of the campuses. The Sigma Phi Fraternity at Morris Brown organized the men of the College Department for the purpose of research and debate, and in 1922 the Swastika Club was founded at that school by Louise Fountain to aid student scholarship.

Athletics began on the campuses in the 1880s, baseball having been the first sport of organized teams at the Center. In 1896 an intercollegiate baseball league was formed which included Atlanta University, Atlanta Baptist Seminary (Morehouse), Clark University, and Morris Brown College. Football was introduced at Atlanta University in 1893. In 1897 history was made when Atlanta University and Tuskegee Institute played at the first Black intercollegiate game in the South.

Atlanta University Quartet, 1894<br />

Atlanta University quartet, 1894

The fine arts, especially music, have been an integral part of Center schools since the beginning. At Atlanta University an orchestra was organized in 1880 called the Guitar Club. It is noteworthy that the first teacher hired by Spelman's founders was Professor E.H. Kruger who gave voice lessons. Singing groups were also organized in the late nineteenth century. The first Atlanta University Quartet, which included James Weldon Johnson (the poet and author of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the Negro National Anthem), gained national recognition as a result of its fund-raising tours to the North in the 1890s. The Morris Brown College Choir, a select group of fifty students, and the Morehouse and Spelman glee clubs were later to gain considerable acclaim. The use of Black music, especially spirituals, at Clark's Sunday Evening Cultural Hour and at the All-Star Concert Series in the early 1940s exemplified the African-American cultural tradition promoted at the AUC.

Taming of the Shrew Presented Class Day, Atlanta University, 1906<br />

Taming of the Shrew presented Class Day, Atlanta University, 1906

Drama was also a significant part of the fine arts program at the Center. The annual Shakespearean play had its beginning at Morehouse in 1919. In 1931 the University Players was organized at Spelman and students from the Center performed in such plays as Antigone, Medea, The Cherry Orchard, Pride and Prejudice, and The Tempest. The Atlanta University Summer Theater, which was organized in 1934, provided students and the local community with the few opportunities available to see plays by and about Blacks.

Student publications were printed on campus presses during the early years. In 1898, Morehouse and Spelman students published the Athenaeum, a literary magazine. Clark's student newspaper, which was first issued as The Elevator in 1890, became in 1922 The Mentor, and in 1946 The Panther. The Crogman Cycle, Clark's first yearbook, was published beginning in 1926 and became the Panther Yearbook in 1946. Morris Brown's oldest student newspaper, The Brownie Book, was replaced in 1933 by the Wolverine Observer. Student journalism at Atlanta University began with the publication of the Scroll in 1895. In 1939, Delta Phi Delta, an intercollegiate journalistic society, was organized by Morehouse College.

Homecoming Queen Irene Burch Williams, and Runner-up Lithia Bailey, Clark, 1928<br />

Homecoming queen Irene Burch Williams, and runner up Lithia Bailey, Clark, 1928

Annual celebrations and special observances help sustain tradition, and deepen the college community‘s commitment to its alma mater. Such occasions include Founders’ Day ceremonies at each campus: Homecoming at Clark, Morris Brown, and Morehouse; Cap and Gown Day, Crogman Day, Religious Emphasis Week, and Vesper Service at Clark; and the Thanksgiving Rally, Christmas Carol Concert, and Senior Day at Spelman.