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What's In A Name?

A Look at the Namesakes of Howard University

Published: Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Updated: Saturday, August 9, 2008 23:08

Formally known as the College of Fine Arts Building, Lulu Vere Childers Hall is located adjacent to the Blackburn Center. In April of 1961, Howard University opened the Fine Arts Complex, which includes Lulu Childers Hall, Cramton Auditorium and The Ira Aldridge Theatre.

The Fine Arts building is named after Lulu Vere Childers, one of the many influential women that paved the way for Howard students today. Childers, who was born in 1870 in the small Kentucky town of Dryridge, graduated from the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio.

Upon completing her formal education in 1896, Childers took the positions as head of Howard University's choir and vocal instructor. At this time, there were not many women instructors at the University. Therefore, Childers was able to gain the admiration of her students and faculty. Childers came to Howard to educate, but she also founded the University's School of Music, which today is known as the Department of Music. 

In 1905, Childers was named the Director of the School of Music and served in that capacity for 37 years. Childers was a passionate vocalist, and her passion fueled her desire to pave the way for future students. It is because of her hard work and dedication that in 1914, the University established its Conservatory of Music. Childers did not want students under her instruction to settle for less. She challenged students by introducing them to difficult pieces of music to study.

The department began to gain national recognition and many talented African Americans enrolled. One of those students, Lillian Evanti, became the first African American to perform with a troupe in Europe.

Childers not only put on acclaimed recitals annually, but she also helped break racial barriers in the Washington, D.C. area. Both whites and blacks enjoyed the recitals together.

The many contributions Childers made during her years at Howard did not go without recognition. In 1942, the University honored her with an honorary doctorate from the School of Music. A section of the Fine Arts Building was named after this astonishing woman in 1956.

Lulu Vere Childers Hall currently houses Howard's departments of Art, Theatre Arts and Music. There is also a recital hall, music practice studios, art studios and dressing rooms.  

Childers Hall is rich in history and houses the finest art the University has to offer. The Gallery of Art, which was founded in 1928 by Professor James V. Herring, was moved from Rankin Chapel to Lulu Vere Childers Hall in 1961. The gallery is nationally acclaimed, and holds a collection of African artifacts donated to the University by Alain Locke, an honorable former Howard professor. It also displays paintings from the Renaissance and European prints from 16th –19th century.

Childers died on March 6, 1946, but the students at Howard University will continue to carry on the legacy that she has left behind.

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