The History Behind 6 HBCU Seals

by Melanie Wolff and Kelly Lewis 

You see these symbols everywhere on campus, but do you know what they represent? Many college and university school seals represent interesting aspects of an institution’s heritage or mission. Today’s Morning MSI Line Up tells the histories of six HBCU seals!

1) Xavier University of Louisiana (HBCU)New Orleans, LA

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As the only Catholic HBCU, Xavier’s seal reflects its religious history. The green field represents confidence in God. The lion is a symbol of courage and strength, standing for the Xavier student nourished with the wheat.The wheat can also stand for the founders of the universitythe Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. The Crescent has a double meaninga symbol of the city of New Orleans, as well as the Virgin Mary.

2) Howard University (HBCU)Washington, D.C.

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Adopted in 1867, the original Howard seal represented the daring concept of a university open to education for all races, male or female. This is defined further by the different nationalities represented around the globe, and the original motto, “Equal rights and Knowledge for all.” Changed around 1910 to represent school trustee Booker T. Washington’s perspective on industrial education for blacks, the new seal represented a less “radical” approach to education than originally envisioned for the institution. Despite this shift, the school was still seen, as one school dean put it, as “the national university for the colored race.”

3) Spelman College (HBCU)Atlanta, GA

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Spelman’s motto, “Our Whole School for Christ,” is embedded in the seal as a testament to the faith of the school’s founders, though the institution itself is non-denominational. The star in the seal is the “Star of Service,” representing the original 6 departments at Spelman – College, Teacher Training, Nurse Training, Music, Academy, and High School.

 4) Clark Atlanta University  (HBCU)Atlanta, GA

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The University’s seal combines the emblems of its parent institutions – Clark College and Atlanta University – into one. The open book represents the search for and transmission of knowledge, containing the sword of truth and torch of knowledge. The pages of the book also contain the founding dates of the parent institutions. The lamp is meant to represent the illumination of the mind.

5) Morehouse College (HBCU)Atlanta, GA

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Morehouse College might have one of the most recognizable seals in the HBCU community. Often illustrated in the color maroon, the Morehouse’s seal is a visual representation of its motto, Et facta est lux – the truth is light. The truth is represented by the sun emerging from the clouds.

6) Harris-Stowe State University  (HBCU)—St. Louis, MO

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Harris-Stowe State was originally two schools, whose namesakes – William Torrey Harris and Harriet Breecher Stowe – appear on the seal. The Harris Teachers College, founded in 1857, only educated white teachers for the city of St. Louis, while Harris Stowe Teachers College was founded in 1890 as a normal school for black teachers in St. Louis. In a step to integrate the St. Louis Public School System, the two teachers colleges were merged into one in 1954. As such, it played a pivotal role in advancing racial equality in the area.

Harris-Stowe’s school motto is “affordable, accessible, diverse,” or, as it is written on the seal in Latin, “not many things, but much.” According to the school’s website, it is the most affordable Baccalaureate program in the metropolitan area, and about 85% of its students receive financial aid – holding true to its motto for its students.

Know of other HBCU official seal histories? Share them in the comments below!

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