JBHE Chronology of Major Landmarks in the Progress of African Americans in Higher EducationFor most of American history, a majority of the black population in this country was prohibited from learning to read or write. Today African Americans are enrolling in higher education in record numbers. Here are some key events that occurred along the way.
1799: John Chavis, a Presbyterian minister and teacher, is the first black person on record to attend an American college or university. There is no record of his receiving a degree from what is now Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.
1804: Middlebury College awards an honorary master’s degree to Lemuel Haynes, an African American who fought in the Revolutionary War.
1823: Alexander Lucius Twilight becomes the first known African American to graduate from a college in the United States. He received a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in Vermont.
1826: Edward Jones graduates from Amherst College. Jones is believed to be the second African American to earn a college degree.
1826: Two weeks after Edward Jones graduated from Amherst College, John Brown Russwurm graduates from Bowdoin College in Maine. He is the third African American to graduate from college in the U.S.
1828: Edward Mitchell graduates from Dartmouth College. He is believed to be the fourth African American to graduate from an American college.
1833: Oberlin College in Ohio is founded. From its founding the college is open to blacks and women and has a long history of dedication to African-American higher education.
1836: Isaiah G. DeGrasse received a bachelor’s degree from Newark College (now the University of Delaware). DeGrasse appears to be the first African American to graduate from any of the flagship state universities.
1837: What is now Cheyney University in Pennsylvania is established for free blacks. It does not become a degree-granting institution until 1932.
1837: James McCune Smith is the first African American to earn a medical degree when he graduates from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Smith returned to the U.S. to be a physician. He also owned two pharmacies.
1844: Oberlin College graduates its first black student, George B. Vashon, who became one of the founding professors at How-ard University.
1847: David J. Peck is the first black to earn a degree from a medical college in the United States. Peck received his M.D. from Rush Medical College in Chicago and practiced in Philadelphia and later in Nicaragua.
1849: Charles L. Reason is named professor of belles-lettres, Greek, Latin and French at New York Central College in McGrawville, New York. He appears to be the first African American to teach at a mixed race institution of higher education in the U.S.
1850: Lucy Ann Stanton, a black woman, receives a certificate in literature from Oberlin College. She is a graduate of the college but did not receive a bachelor’s degree.
1850: Harvard Medical School accepts its first three black students, one of whom was Martin Delany. But Harvard later rescinds the invitations due to pressure from white students.
1854: Ashmun Institute (now Lincoln University) is founded as the first institute of higher education for black men. The school, in Oxford, Pennsylvania, later graduates Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall.
1855: Kentucky’s Berea College is established, becoming the first interracial and coeducational institution in the South.
1856: Wilberforce University in Ohio is founded as the second university solely for black students. Wilberforce was a destination point for the Ohio Underground Railroad.
1856: Martin Henry Freeman becomes the first black college president at Avery College.
1862: Mary Jane Patterson, a teacher, graduates with a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College. She is considered the first African-American woman to earn a bachelor’s degree.
1863: Daniel A. Payne, a historian, educator, and minister, becomes the founder and first black president of Wilberforce University in Ohio.
1864: The first black female medical student, Rebecca Lee, graduates from the New England Female Medical College.
1865: Patrick Francis Healy is the first American black to receive a doctorate, earning a Ph.D. from Louvain University in Belgium.
1865: Before the end of the Civil War, approximately 40 blacks had graduated from colleges and universities, all of which were in the North.
1866: Fisk University is founded in Nashville, Tennessee.
1867: Howard University is founded in Washington, D.C.
1867: Morehouse College (originally known as Augusta Institute) in Atlanta, Georgia, and Saint Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina, are founded.
1868: Howard University opens a medical department, becoming the first school to have a medical program for blacks.
1868: Hampton Institute (now University) is founded in Virginia.
1868: Passing for white, Patrick Francis Healy becomes the first black faculty member at one of the nation’s highest-ranked and predominantly white universities when he joins the Georgetown University faculty to teach philosophy.
1869: George Lewis Ruffin is the first black to earn a degree from Harvard Law School. In 1883 Ruffin became Massachusetts’ first African-American judge.
1869: Mary Ann Shadd Carey becomes the first black woman student to enroll at Howard University’s law department. She does not graduate until 1884 at the age of 61.
1869: Harvard awards its first degree in dentistry to an African American named Robert Tanner Freeman.
1870: Harvard College graduates its first black student, Richard Theodore Greener, who goes on to a career as an educator and lawyer. After graduating from Harvard, Greener becomes a faculty member at the University of South Carolina. He is the first known black to be hired to the faculty of a flagship state university.
1870: George F. Grant graduates with a degree of dentistry from Harvard. He later serves as its first black instructor at the dental school from 1878 to 1889.
1870: John Mercer Langston, who held a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Oberlin College, becomes the founding dean at Howard University Law School.
1870: James Webster Smith is the first black student admitted to West Point, though he does not graduate. He is court-martialed and expelled. He was commissioned posthumously in 1997.
1870: By this time, approximately 22 historically black colleges and universities are enrolling students in the United States.
1872: Charlotte Ray graduates from Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., becoming the first African-American woman to do so.
1872: John Henry Conyers is the first black student to enter the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. A year later he resigned after having academic troubles.
1874: Patrick Francis Healy, a former slave who passed for white, is named president of Georgetown University, the first black at any predominantly white higher education institution in the United States.
1874: Edward Bouchet, the son of a university janitor, graduates from Yale College.
1876: Edward Bouchet becomes the first black to earn a Ph.D. at an American university. He receives his doctorate in physics from Yale.
1876: Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, opens as the second medical school for blacks.
1877: Henry Ossian Flipper, a former slave, becomes the first black man to graduate from West Point. Flipper was subsequently court-martialed and driven out of the Army on trumped-up charges of embezzlement. He was pardoned posthumously in 1999.
1877: Inman Page, a former slave, is elected student body president at Brown University. He is believed to be the first black to be elected student body president at any of the nation’s highest-ranked and predominantly white universities.
1877: George Washington Henderson, a student at the University of Vermont, is the first black student elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honorary society.
1878: Winfield Scott Montgomery, a student at Dartmouth College, is the second black student elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
1879: Wiley Lane, a student at Amherst College, is the third black student elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
1880: At this time 45 black colleges and universities are in existence.
1881: Howard University School of Dentistry is founded.
1881: Spelman College, the nation’s first historically black college for women, is founded in Atlanta, Georgia.
1881: Tuskegee Institute is established in Alabama with Booker T. Washington as its first principal.
1886: Meharry Medical College establishes a dental school.
1887: John H. Alexander becomes the second black student to graduate from West Point.
1889: Alfred O. Coffin is the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in biological sciences. He earns his degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington and starts a career as an educator.
1890: About 64 black colleges are now enrolling students.
1890: Ida Gray is the first black woman to earn a degree in dentistry. She graduates from the University of Michigan Dental School.
1892: An Amherst College football player, William Henry Lewis is named the first black All-American athlete.
1892: Robert Robinson Taylor is the first black to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He spent more than 40 years on the faculty of the Tuskegee Institute and designed most of the campus’ buildings.
1893: Daniel Hale Williams, a graduate of Chicago Medical College (now Northwestern University Medical School), performs the first successful open heart surgery in the world.
1895: W.E.B. Du Bois earns his Ph.D. in history from Harvard, the first black to do so at Harvard.
1896: George Washington Carver becomes director of agricultural research at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute. Carver, a chemist and botanist, was known for developing a system of crop rotation and working with peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes.
1896: Booker T. Washington receives an honorary master’s degree from Harvard University.
1897: Vassar College graduates its first black student, Anita Hemmings. Hemmings passed for white until she was outed a few weeks prior to graduation. The university expresses outrage at the deception but still grants her a degree.
1897: Lutie A. Lytle graduates from the Central Tennessee College Law School. A year later she returns to the school as a member of the faculty.
1899: Mary Annette Anderson of Middlebury College becomes the first black woman elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
1900: More than 2,000 blacks have earned higher education degrees by this time, approximately 390 from white colleges and universities.
1900: There are now 78 black colleges and universities in the United States.
1904: The Kentucky legislature passes the Day Law, prohibiting interracial education. As a result, Berea College shuts its doors to blacks for nearly half a century. The college establishes Lincoln Institute for black students.
1906: John Hope becomes the first black president of Morehouse College, a college for black men in Atlanta.
1906: The first fraternity for black college men, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, is founded at Cornell University.
1907: Alain LeRoy Locke of Harvard University becomes the first black Rhodes scholar. Evidence shows that the Rhodes committee did not know Locke was black when he was offered the scholarship.
1907: The University of Chicago graduates Charles Henry Turner, the first black Ph.D. in entomology.
1908: The first sorority for black college women, Alpha Kappa Alpha, is founded at Howard University.
1912: Carter G. Woodson becomes the second black in the U.S. to earn a doctorate in history. His Ph.D. is from Harvard. He goes on to found the Journal of Negro History in 1916 and inaugurates Negro History Week in 1926.
1915: The first black to earn a Ph.D. in physiology is Julian Herman Lewis, who graduates from the University of Chicago. Lewis, an expert on immunology, authored The Biology of the Negro.
1916: St. Elmo Brady becomes the first black to earn a doctorate in chemistry. He earns his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois.
1920: Francis Cecil Sumner, a prolific contributor to Psychological Abstracts, becomes the first black awarded a doctorate in psychology. He earns his degree from Clark University in Massachusetts.
1921: Eva B. Dykes from Radcliffe College, Sadie T. Mossell Alexander from the University of Pennsylvania, and Georgiana R. Simpson from the University of Chicago are the first African-American women to earn doctorates.
1921: Thomas Wyatt Turner is the first African American awarded a Ph.D. in botany. He receives his degree from Cornell University.
1921: Amherst College graduate Charles Hamilton Houston becomes the first black editor on the Harvard Law Review.
1921: Jasper Alston Atkins becomes the first black editor on the Yale Law Review.
1925: Clara Burrill Bruce becomes the African-American editor in chief on the Boston University Law Review.
1925: Elbert Frank Cox becomes the first black Ph.D. in mathematics, earning his degree from Cornell University.
1926: Howard University in Washington, D.C., appoints its first black president, Mordecai Wyatt Johnson. Johnson, an educator and pastor, was an inspiration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s initial interests in nonviolence.
1926: Charles R. Drew graduates from Amherst College. He goes on to establish the procedure for storing and transfusing blood plasma, saving thousands of lives. He later chaired the department of surgery at Howard University.
1926: Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander is elected associate editor of the Pennsylvania Law Review.
1926: Oberlin College awards an honorary doctorate in music to R. Nathaniel Dett, a black composer and conductor.
1930: The University of Chicago awards the first doctorate in anatomy to a black, Roscoe Lewis McKinney. McKinney established the anatomy department at Howard University’s medical school.
1931: Arnold Hamilton Maloney, the discoverer of the antidote for barbiturate poisoning, is the first black to graduate with a Ph.D. in pharmacology. He earned his degree from the University of Wisconsin.
1931: Jane Matilda Bolin is the first black woman graduate of Yale Law School. She becomes the nation’s first black woman judge in 1939.
1932: At this time there are 117 historically black institutions of higher education, 36 public and 81 private. Seventy-four are affiliated with religious organizations. Five are devoted to graduate level education.
1932: E. Franklin Frazier, credited with building Howard University’s sociology department, publishes The Free Negro Family.
1932: Frederick Douglass Patterson becomes the first black Ph.D. in bacteriology when he graduates from Cornell University. Patterson was a professor, then president, at Tuskegee Institute.
1932: Columbia University awards the first doctorate to an African American in bacteriology, Hildrus Augustus Poindexter.
1932: Samuel Milton Nabrit, former president of Texas Southern University, is the first black to be awarded a Ph.D. in embryology. He receives his degree from Brown University.
1932: Robert Steward Jason becomes the first black to earn a Ph.D. in pathology. He studied at the University of Chicago.
1932: The Journal of Negro Education begins publication at Howard University.
1933: Harvard Business School graduates its first black MBA student, H. Naylor Fitzhugh, the founder of Howard University’s marketing department.
1934: George Maceo Jones, an architecture professor, is the first black to earn a Ph.D. in civil engineering. He completed his doctorate at the University of Michigan.
1934: Paul Bertau Cornely, a medical school administrator, is the first black to earn a Ph.D. in public health. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.
1935: Major Franklin Spaulding, a former professor at Tennessee A&I State College, is the first black to earn a Ph.D. in agronomy. Spaulding studied at Massachusetts State College.
1936: The Maryland Court of Appeals rules that the University of Maryland Law School must admit black applicant Donald Gaines Murray after previously denying him admission based on his race.
1936: Flemmie Pansy Kittrell, a home economics and nutrition professor, becomes the first black to earn a Ph.D. in nutrition. She received her Ph.D. from Cornell University.
1938: Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada is decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling required the state to either allow Lloyd Lionel Gaines to attend the University of Missouri School of Law or create another school that would provide the same education for him. In response, the university builds a black law school. Three months after the ruling, Lloyd Gaines left his apartment to buy some postage stamps. He was never seen again.
1941: A Harvard University black lacrosse player, Lucien V. Alexis Jr., is forced to sit on the sidelines in a game against the U.S. Naval Academy, which refused to allow blacks on its field. Protests erupted at Harvard, resulting in the university’s stating it would ban any games with similar requirements.
1941: Lucille Bluford v. the University of Missouri is decided by the Missouri State Supreme Court. The university is ordered to admit Bluford to its journalism school only if the historically black Lincoln University does not admit her. As a result, Lincoln creates a journalism program.
1941: The “Cocking Affair” in the University of Georgia system leaves two white professors, Dean Walter D. Cockling and Dr. Marvin S. Pittman, without jobs for promoting equality.
1942: After the NAACP threatens to file suit on behalf of Charles Eubanks, who wanted to attend the engineering program at the University of Kentucky, the Kentucky State Board of Education votes to start a civil engineering program at the Kentucky State College for Negroes in Frankfurt.
1942: Catholic University awards the first black Ph.D. in geology to Marguerite Thomas Williams.
1943: Harry James Green Jr. becomes the first black to earn a doctorate in chemical engineering. He received his degree from Ohio State University.
1944: The United Negro College Fund is established to raise money for private historically black colleges. Frederick Douglass Patterson is the founder.
1945: Adelaide Cromwell becomes the first black faculty member at a highly selective liberal arts college when she joins the sociology department at Smith College, her alma mater in Northampton, Massachusetts.
1946: Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, names Charles Spurgeon Johnson its first black president.
1946: Alain LeRoy Locke becomes the first black to lead the American Association for Adult Education.
1947: W. Allison Davis, a professor of education at the University of Chicago, becomes the first black faculty member to be appointed to a tenured position at one of the nation’s highest-ranked universities.
1947: Don Barksdale of UCLA is the first African American to be named an All-American in college basketball.
1947: John Leroy Howard, Arthur Jewell Wilson Jr., and James Everett Ward are the first black students to graduate from Princeton University. Princeton is the last Ivy League institution to admit black students.
1948: Edwin D. Driver joins the sociology department at the University of Massachusetts. Ruby Pernell is hired at the University of Minnesota. It appears that they are the first black faculty members hired by any state flagship university in the twentieth century.
1948: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Sipuel v. University of Oklahoma that Ada Sipuel be admitted to the law school at the University of Oklahoma. The ruling states that blacks have the right to a legal education of the same quality as whites.
1949: Wesley A. Brown becomes the first black to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Brown survived ridicule during his college years and served in the Navy’s civil engineering corps for 20 years.
1949: Sherrill D. Luke of UCLA becomes the second black to serve as student body president at a top university.
1950: Ralph J. Bunche, officially a member of the Harvard University faculty although he never taught there, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the 1948 Arab-Israeli peace settlement, becoming the first black to receive this distinction.
1950: In Sweatt v. Painter the University of Texas School of Law is ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to admit Heman Marion Sweatt after the Court concludes that the Prairie View Law School is grossly inferior. Sweatt enrolls but eventually drops out of the University of Texas School of Law after receiving poor grades.
1950: The Supreme Court rules in McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education that black students admitted to the previously all-white graduate institution must not be segregated within the institution and must receive equal treatment in all aspects of the education process.
1950: Kentucky’s Day Law is amended to allow black and white students above high school level to be educated together. Berea College is the first in the state to readmit black students.
1950: The U.S. Court of Appeals requires the University of Virginia School of Law to admit Gregory Swanson, a practicing lawyer. Swanson, the first black admitted to UVA, did not complete his studies due to the inhospitable treatment he received.
1950: The American Medical Association accepts black members for the first time.
1950: The first Ph.D. in metallurgy is awarded to a black, Frank Alphonso Crossley, at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
1951: The first black student is admitted to the University of North Carolina School of Law.
1951: Princeton University awards its first honorary degree to an African American, Ralph Bunche.
1952: The first black student is admitted to the University of Tennessee.
1952: Joseph T. Gier, an engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley, is the second black faculty member to become tenured at a predominantly white university.
1953: Walter N. Ridley, a psychology professor at Virginia State University, becomes University of Virginia’s first black graduate, receiving a doctorate in education.
1953: Spelman College names Albert Edward Manley as its first black president.
1953: The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania graduates its first black woman MBA student. Today, Wharton is unsure of the identity of the student.
1954: The University of Florida is ordered to admit black students by the Supreme Court.
1954: In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional.
1956: Autherine Lucy is the first African American to enroll at the University of Alabama. After riots engulfed the campus, she is expelled for “her own safety.”
1956: Lila Fenwick graduates from Harvard Law School, the first black woman to do so. Fenwick later led the United Nations’ Human Rights Division.
1956: The University of Florida College of Law is ordered to admit Virgil Darnell Hawkins following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Florida ex rel. Hawkins v. Board of Control. Hawkins withdraws his application as a condition by which Florida agreed to integrate the law school.
1957: Legislation is passed in Tennessee requiring the desegregation of state universities.
1958: The University of Florida law school admits its first black student, George Starke Jr.
1960: Four black students from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical College hold a sit-in at the lunch counter of an F.W. Woolworth in Greensboro, North Carolina. This spurs a series of sit-ins in the South to demand racial equality.
1960: Charles Edward Anderson becomes the first black to earn a doctorate in meteorology. He earned his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
1961: The term “affirmative action” is coined by Hobart T. Taylor Jr., a black Texas lawyer, who edits President Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925, which created the Presidential Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity.
1961: Riots and protests by white students greet the University of Georgia’s first black students, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes, when they arrive on campus to register. Hunter and Holmes are suspended until court orders allow their return.
1961: Ernie Davis, a Syracuse University student and football player, becomes the first black to earn the Heisman Trophy signifying the best player in college football.
1961: Harvey Washington Banks is the first black to earn a Ph.D. in astronomy. He studied at Georgetown University.
1962: Riots erupt at the University of Mississippi when James Meredith arrives as the school’s first black student. Federal troops and U.S. marshals are sent in by President Kennedy to ensure Meredith’s entry. Two people are killed in the rioting on the Ole Miss campus.
1962: Harry Lee Morrison becomes the first black faculty member at the U.S. Air Force Academy, joining the physics department for three years.
1963: President Kennedy sends troops to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa to ease the admission of its first two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood.
1963: Joseph Stanley Sanders and John Edgar Wideman become the first black Rhodes scholars since Alain LeRoy Locke first received this honor in 1907.
1963: Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes graduate from the University of Georgia.
1963: James Meredith graduates from the University of Mississippi.
1963: The first three black students graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. They are Charles Vernon Bush, Isaac Sanders Payne IV, and Roger Bernard Sims.
1963: New Orleans’ Tulane University admits its first black students, five students in all.
1964: John Hope Franklin joins the history department at the University of Chicago.
1965: Vivian Malone becomes the first black graduate of the University of Alabama.
1966: Texas Western University’s (now the University of Texas at El Paso) basketball team with all black players wins the NCAA tournament, becoming the first predominantly black team to do so.
1966: The U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduates its first black student, Merle J. Smith Jr., who later becomes a lawyer and investment banker.
1966: The Citadel admits its first black student, Charles DeLesline Foster. The university asks the media not to make a fuss about the event.
1966: U.S. military schools hire their first black faculty members. Samuel P. Massie Jr. joins the chemistry department at the U.S. Naval Academy, eventually becoming its chair and founding the school’s black studies program. West Point appoints James L.E. Hill to the chemistry department and Reginald L. Brown to teach economics and government.
1966: The Charles R. Drew Postgraduate Medical School in Los Angeles is founded and named after the blood plasma expert and Amherst College graduate. In 1987 the school is renamed the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.
1968: Students at Howard University stage a sit-in in the school’s administrative offices to demand a more black-oriented curriculum.
1968: Boston University administration building is shut down by a student sit-in demanding a black history major and better treatment for black students.
1969: Major M.M. Adams, a professor of military science, is hired by The Citadel, becoming its first black faculty member.
1969: Vaughn Charles Williams serves as the first black president of a law review journal at a top law school. He is named to head the Stanford Law Review.
1969: Armed black students at Cornell University demand an African-American studies program. The “Willard Straight Hall Takeover of 1969” evolved into larger arguments over equality. Administration officials gave in to the students’ demands. Pictures of the armed students exiting the building grace the covers of major magazines and newspapers.
1969: National Guard troops kill one student when riots over a local high school election spill over to North Carolina A&T University.
1969: Black students at Brandeis University take over the administration and communications building.
1969: Clifton R. Wharton Jr. becomes the second black president of a predominantly white school, Michigan State University.
1969: The African-American studies program is established at Harvard.
1969: William M. Boyd III, a Massachusetts lawyer, is named a trustee at Williams College. At Yale University, Leon A. Higginbotham Jr., a Harvard Kennedy School professor and U.S. Court of Appeals judge, is named a trustee.
1969: A suit is filed in Tennessee against the racial segregation in public higher education.
1970: Protests are held by students at Ohio State University to demand the enrollment of more black students. The National Guard is called in to restore order.
1970: Black students at Jackson State University in Mississippi protest racial incidents, leading to two deaths and 12 injuries.
1970: Yale University Corporation has its first elected black woman, Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund.
1971: Over 2,000 students at the University of Florida, Gainesville protest to demand the admission of more black students. The administration’s refusal to meet demands results in 100 black students leaving the university.
1974: Eight states, mainly in the South, submit plans to desegregate their state universities. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare accepts plans from Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Plans from Mississippi are rejected and Louisiana is sued for not presenting a plan.
1975: W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research is established at Harvard University as a center for studying black history, culture, and social institutions.
1975: Eileen J. Southern is the first black woman tenured as a full professor at Harvard University.
1976: The U.S. Naval Academy admits women for the first time. Janie L. Mines is the sole black out of the 81 women.
1976: Marian Wright Edelman is named to Spelman College’s board of trustees.
1978: Regents of the University of California v. Bakke rules that while race can be used as a factor in university admissions, quotas are not allowed. Race can be used only as a factor in admission when all other factors are equal.
1978: Morehouse Medical College in Atlanta enrolls its first class of students.
1979: Sir Arthur Lewis, a black economics professor at Princeton University, wins the Nobel Prize in Economics.
1980: The first annual Black College Day is held in Washington, D.C., attracting 18,000 students who aim to increase attention to black colleges and universities.
1980: President Jimmy Carter signs Executive Order 12232, a federal program to strengthen HBCUs and increase funding.
1980: Howard University’s WHMM-TV becomes the first public broadcasting television station in the U.S. operated by African Americans.
1980: The United Negro College Fund holds its first annual telethon, raising $14.1 million to support HBCUs. To date the telethon has raised more than $200 million.
1981: President Ronald Reagan signs Executive Order 12320 which creates the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and encourages federal support for HBCUs.
1982: The Reagan administration launches a failed attempt to allow tax-exempt status to segregated private schools, including the Bob Jones University.
1982: Faced with losing its accreditation, President Reagan approves a $55.6 million aid package to Meharry Medical College.
1982: Annette Gordon becomes the first black woman editor on the Harvard Law Review.
1983: Federal government sues state of Alabama in an effort to force more desegregation in its system of higher education.
1984: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in the case of Grove City College v. Bell that even though it is a private institution, it has to abide by antidiscriminatory laws since students receive federal financial aid. As a result, the school ends its participation in federal financial aid programs.
1984: John Thompson of Georgetown University becomes the first black coach to lead a basketball team to the NCAA championship.
1985: Grambling State University’s football coach, Eddie G. Robinson, breaks a college record with his 324th victory.
1987: Johnnetta Betsch Cole becomes first black woman president of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.
1988: Some 200 students take over the New Africa House at the University of Massachusetts to protest racial incidents on campus. After six days, the university administration establishes new procedures to expel students who are found guilty of racial violence and to promote a more diverse curriculum.
1988: Bishop College, a historically black institution in Dallas, Texas, closes due to financial problems.
1988: Bill and Camille Cosby make the largest contribution from a family donor to any black college when they donate $20 million to Spelman College.
1988: Sylvia A. Boone is the first black woman to become a tenured faculty member at Yale University.
1989: Lee Atwater, the white chairman of the Republican National Convention, resigns as a trustee of Howard University after a sit-in by students.
1990: The United Negro College Fund receives its largest donation ever of $50 million from Walter Annenberg.
1990: Marguerite Ross Barnett is named president of the University of Houston, making her the first black woman to lead a major university.
1990: Harvard’s first black law professor, Derrick Bell, protests the law school’s lack of a black woman faculty member by taking an extended leave of absence. He never returned.
1990: The site of the former Bishop College becomes the new home for Paul Quinn College, another HBCU which relocated from Waco, Texas, to Dallas.
1990: A group called the Harvard Law School Coalition for Civil Rights files a suit against Harvard Law School saying it does not comply with Massachusetts law in its hiring women and minorities.
1990: Michael L. Williams, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights, notifies organizers of the Fiesta Bowl that college scholarships set aside for black students at the two universities participating in the football game were in violation of U.S. civil rights law.
1990: Barack Obama, now a U.S. senator from Illinois, is elected the first black president of the Harvard Law Review.
1992: In United States v. Fordice, the Supreme Court orders 19 states to take immediate action to desegregate their public higher education systems.
1993: Princeton University professor Toni Morrison becomes the first African American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
1993: Condoleezza Rice is appointed provost at Stanford University, making her the first black chief academic officer at Stanford.
1993: Barbara RossLee, sister of Diana Ross of The Supremes, becomes the first black to head a predominantly white medical school in the U.S. when she is appointed dean of the medical school at Ohio University.
1994: A desegregation plan is imposed on the state of Louisiana by a federal judge. Plan calls on the state to increase academic program offerings at historically black Southern University and to upgrade facilities at Southern campuses in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and New Orleans. Plan also calls for increase in white students at Southern University and the number of black students at Louisiana State University.
1994: Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the Benjamin Banneker Scholarship Program at the University of Maryland is unconstitutional because the state-sponsored program is limited to black students.
1995: Ward Connerly, an African American and regent of the University of California, pushes through a ban abolishing all racial preferences in admissions to the university. Ban takes effect for graduate programs in 1997 and for undergraduates in 1998.
1995: Ruth J. Simmons is elected president of Smith College making her the first black woman in this position at a highly selective liberal arts college.
1995: Federal judge orders Alabama to set up a trust fund to pay for improvements in infrastructure and academic programs at its two predominantly black public universities, Alabama State University and Alabama A&M University.
1996: In Hopwood v. State of Texas, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the University of Texas School of Law cannot consider race as a factor in its admissions decisions. Ruling has the effect of law in the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. As a result of the ruling, Texas attorney general suspends race-sensitive admissions at all state-operated institutions of higher education. Lawyers at Rice University, a private institution in Texas, also recommend that Rice abandon race-sensitive admissions and the university ends its affirmative action admissions program.
1996: California’s Proposition 209 is passed by California voters, banning the use of race in admissions to state universities. As a result, the number of black freshmen accepted at the University of California at Berkeley is down 57 percent in 1998, the first year the ban goes into effect.
1997: In an effort to offset the effects of the Hopwood decision outlawing race-sensitive admissions, the Texas state legislature passes a law that automatically qualifies the top 10 percent of all high school graduating classes for admission to the University of Texas. By 2001, blacks are 3.5 percent of the entering class, up from 2.5 percent in 1997.
1998: Proposition 200 is approved by Washington State voters, banning racial preferences in admissions decisions at public universities. One year later, black applicants to the University of Washington are down 17 percent.
1998: The Shape of the River, by William G. Bowen and Derek Bok, a landmark study examining the use of race in college and university admissions, is published.
1998: Federal judge in Ohio rules that minority set-aside program at Cuyahoga Community College is unconstitutional. Ruling warns college trustees that they may be personally liable if they continue to practice racial preferences.
1999: Fearing lawsuits, the state of Oklahoma eliminates college scholarships earmarked for black and other minority students.
1999: Florida governor Jeb Bush issues an executive order banning the consideration of race in admissions at state universities in Florida. The One Florida plan also contains a provision so that any Florida students graduating in the top 20 percent of their high school class will be automatically qualified for admission to Florida state universities.
1999: California enacts policy that automatically qualifies students in the top 4 percent of their high school graduating class for admission to the state university system.
1999: After threats of litigation, the University of Virginia admissions office ends a six-year-old scoring system that gave two extra bonus points (on a scale of eight) to black applicants. As a result, black enrollment in the freshman class drops from 11.2 percent in 1999 to 9.9 percent in 2004.
2000: The University of Massachusetts announces a new admissions policy that uses a point system which downplays race and SAT scores and puts greater emphasis on a student’s high school grade point average.
2000: Mount Holyoke College drops requirement for SATs in admission, causing a 50 percent increase in black applications and first-year enrollments.
2001: Affirmative action admissions program at the University of Georgia is ruled unconstitutional by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The next year black applicants drop by 20 percent.
2001: University of Texas Law School decides not to use LSAT scores as the “primary factor” in determining admission. As a result, black enrollments increase but not up to pre-Hopwood levels.
2001: A federal judge approves a five-year plan to further racial desegregation at the historically black Tennessee State University.
2001: Ruth J. Simmons becomes president of Brown University, the first African American to lead an Ivy League institution.
2001: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that states, including their public colleges and universities, cannot be sued for policies that may have a discriminatory effect. The ruling requires plaintiffs to show a deliberate attempt to discriminate against blacks or other minorities.
2001: In a private meeting, Harvard president Lawrence Summers questions the academic scholarship of African-American professor Cornel West. West and Professor K. Anthony Appiah leave Harvard for Princeton.
2002: New law school at the historically black Florida A&M University admits its first class of students.
2002: State Attorney General Jerry Kilgore of Virginia sends a memo to the presidents of state-operated colleges and universities urging them to give as little consideration to race as possible in the admission process to avoid potential legal challenges.
2002: Thirty years after Jake Ayers Sr. sued the state of Mississippi claiming that the state’s black colleges and universities were underfunded, a federal judge approves a $503 million settlement in the case.
2002: Seven black women are the first African-American women to earn diplomas from The Citadel.
2003: In Gratz v. Bollinger, the U.S. Supreme Court outlaws the race-sensitive admissions policy at the University of Michigan that used a numerical formula which gave extra points to black applicants. But in the companion case Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court upholds an affirmative action program at the University of Michigan Law School, thus affirming the 1978 Bakke ruling that race can still be considered in admissions decisions. The Court says that only “narrowly tailored” affirmative action plans will be acceptable and hinted that in 25 years’ time, such race-sensitive admissions plans should no longer be necessary.
2003: Immediately after the Supreme Court’s decisions in Gratz and Grutter, the Center for Equal Opportunity sends letters to a large number of colleges and universities threatening to file complaints with the Office for Civil Rights if they continue to use race-based admissions programs that do not fall under the Supreme Court’s new “narrowly tailored” guidelines.
2003: University of Georgia decides not to reinstate a race-sensitive admissions program after the Supreme Court ruled affirmative action admissions are constitutional.
2003: After the Grutter ruling Rice University reinstates race-sensitive admissions, leading to a 60 percent increase in incoming black freshmen in the fall of 2003.
2003: Ohio State University revamps admissions procedures in response to Gratz ruling. Minority students are no longer given extra points. Applicants are required to write short essays to better help admissions staff in their decisions. Black enrollments drop as a result.
2003: National Association of College Admission Counseling survey results are released showing that 33 percent of all colleges and universities use race as a factor in the admissions process.
2004: Colorado Civil Rights Act, which called for banning race-sensitive admissions to Colorado state colleges and universities, is defeated by one vote in state Senate.
2004: A lawsuit is filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed against California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo stating its admissions policy discriminates against black and Latino applicants.
2004: The Center for Individual Rights files a motion in federal district court in Detroit seeking damages for white and Asian students denied admission to the University of Michigan undergraduate school from 1995 to 2003.
2004: Using the Freedom of Information Act, the conservative group, the National Association of Scholars, presses public universities in 20 states for specific data on their race-sensitive admissions data.
2004: Brown University president Ruth Simmons establishes a committee to investigate Brown’s former ties to slavery and determine if it needs to make reparations.
2004: Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights publishes report listing race-neutral alternatives to increase racial diversity in higher education. Subsequently, many of the outreach programs highlighted in the report see their funding slashed by the Bush administration.
2004: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issues report highly critical of the Bush administration’s record on equality and educational opportunity.
2004: Right-wing National Association of Scholars files a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education challenging the affirmative action admissions programs at the University of Virginia, North Carolina State University, the University of Maryland at Baltimore School of Medicine, and the law school at the College of William and Mary.
2005: Bush administration changes the formula for Pell Grant eligibility. About 89,000 low-income students will no longer receive a Pell Grant.
2005: Bush administration proposes to eliminate the Perkins loan program for low-income students. Congress rejects the proposal and funds the program.
2006: Michigan Civil Rights Initiative calling for a ban on race-sensitive admissions at the University of Michigan is approved by voters by a wide margin.
2006: After 15 years, Henry Louis Gates Jr. steps down as chair of the African and African-American studies department at Harvard University.
2006: Black literary scholar Houston A. Baker Jr. is highly critical of the Duke University administration for its handling of allegations about a sexual assault on a young black woman by members of the Duke lacrosse team. Weeks later, Baker announces he is leaving Duke for Vanderbilt University.
2006: Blacks slightly close the racial gap on the SAT college admissions test. But the test comes under increasing criticism due to scoring errors and the reliability of the new writing segment in predicting student performance in college. Dozens of colleges and universities drop the requirement that applicants take the SAT.
2006: Harvard University, Princeton University, and the University of Virginia end their early admisssions programs. It is generally agreed that this development will help black students increase their enrollments at these institutions as early admissions give an advantage to applicants from families with high incomes.
2006: Princeton University establishes the Center for African-American Studies. It is projected that within five years, Princeton undergraduates will be able to earn a bachelor’s degree in black studies.
2006: Parties agree to settle the 25-year-old racial desegregation case concerning the higher education system in the state of Alabama.
The JBHE research department would like to thank Caldwell Titcomb, professor emeritus at Brandeis University, for his assistance in the preparation of this timeline.