New Evidence That There Was a Black Student at the University of Arkansas During the Reconstruction Era

In 1948 Silas Hunt, a black man, entered the law school at the University of Arkansas. He died the next year from tuberculosis without earning a degree. In 1955 three black women enrolled in the undergraduate nursing program at the University of Arkansas. They went on to become the first black students to earn bachelor’s degrees at the university.

But new research has found that at least one black student was enrolled at the university during the Reconstruction era. Gordon Morgan, who in 1969 became the first full-time black faculty member at the University of Arkansas, came across a clipping from the Little Rock Daily Republican dated February 8, 1873, which mentioned a black man in the initial entering class of the university. The article read: “The name of the student is McGahee, and he is preparing himself for the ministry of the Episcopal church. We are glad to learn the fact. Better one than none.”

Checking the registration list, Professor Morgan found that a James McGahee was listed as a student during the 1872-73 and 1873-74 academic years. There is no further record of this student.