The Crosstown Rival That Bested Georgetown University in First Enrolling Black Students

In 1950, Washington, D.C., was a southern city that adhered to the customs of Jim Crow segregation. At that time no African American had ever earned a bachelor’s or graduate degree from Georgetown University, the highly regarded Jesuit institution of higher learning in Washington.

But just a few miles up the road in the northwestern corner of the District of Columbia, black students had become fully established at American University, a private institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church. American University admitted its first black students in 1937. In 1945 American University awarded a Ph.D. to an African American. By 1950 there were 258 black undergraduates and 168 black graduate students on the American University campus.

It would be another two years, in 1952, before Georgetown University would graduate its first black student.