HBCU Chess Spotlight: Howard University

Howard University has a long and esteemed history as an institution. One of the most well-known universities in the country, it also doubles as a premier HBCU (Historically Black College and University). There is also a very long history in terms of chess. Journalist Jamaal Abdul-Alim gave a presentation to the Howard Chess Club, gearing up for the 100th year anniversary of its founding. He gave a fascinating slide presentation dating the chess club’s beginnings as October 8th, 1926.

Judge George Leighton was featured in the February 17, 1940 issue of the Hilltop as an outstanding chess player. Judge Leighton was an active tournament player and spent his legal career in the Chicago area, passing away at age 105. Like most student organizations, the club went through periods of dormancy and the 1950 yearbook gave the founding date as 1946. The Paragon Chess Club was also active in DC and featured several Howardites.

The Paragon Chess Club (Washington, DC), 1950

The April 13th, 1962 Howard Hilltop newspaper proclaimed that the club had been revived. It appears that Howard has gone through many iterations of the chess club, with the most recent activity appearing in the early 2000s and recently activating in 2021. The Howard Bison have participated in two Pan-Am Intercollegiate Chess Tournaments and most recently participated in the 2nd HBCU Chess Classic after dominating the inaugural event last year. Howard sent a total of eight players, including one alumnus.

HBCU Spotlight: Howard University
Howard University Bison, 2nd place team (2024 HBCU Chess Classic)
Photo by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

Cassidy Sparks, who competed on the Pan-Am teams, is the outgoing president and has her sights set on law school. She spoke with The Chess Drum about Howard chess, some of its activities, and the club’s progress on campus.

Cassidy Sparks, Howard University

Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

Meet the Kings & Queens of HBCU Chess!

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