Why Spelman College was the Birthplace of #BlackGirlMagic 135 Years Ago

Spelman #BlackGirlMagic for 135 years

135 years ago, Spelman College was founded by two white missionaries with a dream to educate African American women in Atlanta. These women just a generation removed from slavery in 1881 and they held their classes in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church beginning with $100 and 11 students. Reflecting on the challenges our nation has faced over the past 135 years, I couldn’t help but think about how these women built a legacy that now has a global reach. These women were birthing #BlackGirlMagic, #BlackGirlsRock, #Womanism, #GirlBoss and every other hashtag in that basement long before hashtags were even dreamed about.

I know it might sound just like a proud alumna boasting but if you really look and think about it, you’ll understand what I’m saying is true. Here are just a few of reasons why I arrived at this conclusion.

Name a metric of measuring excellence and Spelman College at the top of the list, if not the top. This include the financial, the academic or even the social aspects. And I’m not just talking about when being compared to HBCUs or other women’s colleges. I’m asking you to put us up against any school.


Spelman College can admit when we’ve messed up and need to correct ourselves. Spelman has flaws and sometimes it takes an outsider to tell us about our flaws. BUT we’re strong enough as an institution to make those corrections without hiding them under the carpet. During the Inauguration of Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell as Spelman’s 10th President, Dr. Campbell has made equality and respect for all a cornerstone for all people. She’s charged the Spelman community with continuing to the work against sexism that the African American community has not been as aggressive to confront.  

Spelman College graduates are influencing the world by just being themselves. That picture is just Shaun Robinson, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Rosalind Brewer and Alfre Woodard just taking a #selfie. You know 3 of the 4 but in December 2015, Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Sam’s Club, discussed her commitment to diversity and how she requires it of her team but she was really just being herself. She just happens to be a class of 84 graduate and Chair of the Board of Trustees. And we all know that Mrs. Obama has the #BlackGirlMagic all day but it was a Spelman grad who is her leading lady in the form of Kristen Jarvis, a class of 2003 graduate and Mrs. Obama’s chief of staff for seven years.

This picture says it all. These are four of Spelman’s five living presidents and they’re African American women. Is that not the definition of #BlackGirlMagic? The knowledge and wisdom in these women is more than 200 years of professional leadership in the arts and sciences. Collectively, they have raised more than $350 million dollars for Spelman. If you think I’m boasting about how special and magical this group of women is, check out their bios. You have Dr. Johnnetta Cole, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, Dr. Audrey Forbes Manley and our current president, Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell.  

Finally, Spelman College is an open gift to not only Atlanta, but the world.

Mayor Kasim Reed said it on Saturday but a private exchange I witnessed between a former president at a current student solidified it.

The current student asked a former president, “How can I be like you?” And the woman replied with all the love and grace, “My dear, you must be better than me because you have so much more to offer the world. I have done good things but you will do even more and be more.”

It sounds like a quote but I was there and witnessed for myself. I was so touched in this moment that I almost cried. This world-renowned elder woman was imparting such praise into this young woman to be and do more in the world. That is the gift of Spelman College. While she has done good things, there is so much more that she will do and be that the women who founded Spelman in 1881 couldn’t have imagined, that I can not imagine.

On the occasion of Founders Day, Happy Birthday Spelman! Keep giving us #BlackGirlMagic and sharing it with the world.


  1. says

    As the mother of a current Spelman student, I have seen the #BlackGirlsRock magic at Spelman first hand. I love the way Spelman encourages young women to be the best at whatever they want to be – from housewife to CEO at a Fortune 500. I have seen my daughter grown, develop and make life better not just at Spelman, but in the world at large.It is a wonderful thing!

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