Spelman College, originally known as The Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, was established in the basement of Atlanta's Friendship Baptist Church by Harriet E. Giles and Sophia B. Packard and was sponsored by the American Baptist Women's Home Mission Society.
Giles and Packard began the school with 11 African-American women and $100 given to them by a church congregation in Medford, Mass. In 1882 the two women returned to Massachusetts to solicit more money and were introduced to John D. Rockefeller at a church conference in Ohio.
The school relocated in 1883 to a nine-acre site in Atlanta which only had five buildings left from a Union Civil War encampment. The school was able to survive on generous donations by the black community in Atlanta, the efforts of volunteer teachers, and gifts of supplies.
In April 1884, Rockefeller visited the school and was so impressed that he settled the debt on the property. The name of the school was changed to the Spelman Seminary in honor of Rockefeller's wife, Laura Spelman, and her parents who were longtime abolitionists. Rockefeller's gift precipitated interest from other benefactors.
Spelman was the first historically black female institution of higher education to receive its collegiate charter in 1924 and is now part of the Atlanta University Center academic consortium.
A four-year liberal arts women's college, Spelman is now ranked among the nation's top colleges by U.S. News and World Reports, Forbes Magazine, and Princeton Review.