Early in physical therapy education, individuals of racial or ethnic minority groups attended predominantly white institutions because no minority-serving institutions had established physical therapy programs. Prior to the 1960s, due in part to institutional discrimination, there were fewer opportunities for minority students than there were for their white counterparts to participate in higher education. Subsequently, the ability of minorities to enter fields such as physical therapy was inhibited.
Founded in 1867 in northeast Washington, D.C., in a single-frame building, Howard University has evolved to more than 89 acres, including the six-story, 400-bed Howard University Hospital. It ranks among the highest producers of the nation’s black professionals in medicine and numerous other professions.
It is no surprise then that, in 1974, Howard became the first historically black college or university — HBCU — to establish a physical therapy program. It was officially accredited in 1976, and that year 6 physical therapists were the first graduates from the program.