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  • Writer's pictureAlison Merzel

In honor of #Juneteenth

In commemoration of the proclamation of the emancipation of slavery, I wanted to share some interesting historical facts about African Americans in higher education (I was trying to see how many "tion" words I could fit in one sentence):

Did you know that the first African American man to earn a bachelor's degree was Alexander Lucius Twilight, an educator, politician, and minister, who graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1823?

In 1833, Oberlin College opened and welcomed black students and women from the start. In 1850, Lucy Sessions became the first African American woman to complete a four-year course of study in literary studies from Oberlin.

Mary Jane Patterson, the daughter of a slave, became the first black woman to earn a bachelor's degree from Oberlin in 1862.

In 1849, Charles L. Reason became the first African American professor hired at Free Mission College (later New York Central College), a predominantly white college.

Wilberforce University, a four-year liberal arts institution in Wilberforce, Ohio, was founded in 1856 and is the nation's oldest, private, black owned and operated university. It was one of only a few schools that enrolled black students until the emergence of more Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) after the Civil War.

Today there are 101 HBCUs across the United States. Did you know that 1 in 4 students enrolled in HBCUs are non-black? Some celebrity HBCU alumni include: Samuel Jackson, Toni Morrison, Oprah Winfrey, and Taraji P. Henson.

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