In the opening decades of the twentieth century, Lucy Diggs Slowe charted new territory as the first African American dean of women. Serving in this administrative role for fifteen years at her alma mater, Howard University, Slowe introduced and shaped an extracurriculum to realize her unique ideal of educated Black womanhood, “the New Howard Woman.” In a departure from the hyperscrutiny of nineteenth-century codes of respectability, the New Howard Woman drew from the self-defining qualities of the New Negro and the New Woman, while correcting for their exclusive focus on Black masculinity and white femininity, respectively. This paper examines how Slowe’s advocacy of Black women operated on two intertwined principles: the universal right to grow into one’s potential and the obligation of each person to contribute her talent to social amelioration. Given her unwavering conviction that Black women were as much members of modern society as other race-gender groups, Slowe’s tenure provides a unique and needed window into an underexplored history of interventions to render college campuses inclusive and responsive environments for democratic learning and living.

You do not currently have access to this content.