WHUT went on air on November 17, 1980 as WHMM (Howard Multimedia). The station came into existence through efforts that included Dr. James Cheek, then president of Howard University, Millard J. (Jim) Watkins, an engineer and now general manager, WHUR-FM, Howard University administrators, and officials of WETA, which had been using a trailer on the Howard University campus as one of its first broadcast sites. The name was later changed from WHMM to WHUT (Howard University Television) when those call letters became available.
A great deal of public attention was paid locally and nationally to the station’s start as it was, and remains, the first and only public broadcasting (PBS) station in the United States licensed to and operated by a predominantly African American institution, or historically black college/university (HBCU). The local community and Howard University supported the station and it grew under its first manager, a commercial broadcast veteran, Arnold Wallace. WHMM’s first anniversary was commemorated with an extravagant gala hosted by comedian/actor Bill Cosby, and attended by notable African American personalities such as boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, and actors Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis.
By its tenth year, WHUT had produced several award-winning programs with subject matter running the gamut from arts and healthcare to public affairs and athletics. Through this programming, the station developed a brand as a grounded, provocative, and community focused service. The staff produced diverse programming delving into a multitude of topics affecting the community. It covered religion with Worship in Washington, entertained with Comedy Jam, and offered news, information, analysis and entertainment with Evening Exchange and @ Howard. In 1995, it televised, live, the historic Million Man March, making the full event available in the over two million homes reached by WHUT’s signal. The station also attracted national talent and served as the production center for the nationally televised PBS variety show, With Ozzie and Ruby, which ran from 1981-82 and for The Reading Club, produced and distributed in 1999 by Bryant Gumbel, Renee Poussaint and Alison Davis.
WHUT has garnered over 14 Emmys and numerous other awards for its programming.
In 2010 the station and its staff of 16 completed its digital transition. WHUT is now broadcasting in high-definition and standard-definition.
In January 2011 WHUT has extended its broadcast service to the community to a 24-hour, seven day a week presence.
WHUT plays an active role in the local community with special events and programs specifically geared toward literacy, STEM and early-childhood education. WHUT has been awarded an American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen community service grant from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to help Washington, DC improve youth outcomes for all students from preschool through college and onto careers.