February is Black History Month. We would like to celebrate by highlighting some important and influential milestones for black Americans in higher education throughout history.
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
The first recorded black student to attend college is John Chavis in 1799. However, records cannot be found to tell whether or not he actually graduated. He attended college in Virginia.
One of the first black college athletes was William H. Lewis. He first played football at Amherst College, and later playing at Harvard while studying law. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Edward Bouchet was the first black student to earn a Ph.D. He graduated from Yale in 1876 completing his dissertation in physics.
The first continuous black collegiate fraternity was established in 1906. The chapter was Alpha Phi Alpha (ΑΦΑ), at Cornell University. The fraternity is still in good standing today.
The first black Ivy League University President was Ruth Simmons. In 2001 she became president of Brown University. She had previously been president at Smith College and worked at a handful of other schools prior. She graduated from Harvard University with a both her Masters and Doctorate in Romance Literature in the 1970’s.
“Won’t it be wonderful when black history and native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.” Maya Angelou
President Barack Obama attended undergrad at Columbia University and then Harvard Law School, graduating in 1991. He also taught law at the University of Chicago. He now serves as the 44th President of the United States, the first black American to hold the office.