Yale Honors Its First Black Graduate

In 1874 Edward Bouchet became the first African American to earn a degree from Yale College. He graduated with the highest honors and was the second black American to be named Phi Beta Kappa. Two years later Bouchet was awarded a doctorate in physics from Yale, the first African American to earn a Ph.D.

But while Bouchet was the first African American to earn Bachelor’s and Ph.D. degrees at Yale, he was not the first African American to earn a degree. Last month Yale unveiled a monument commemorating the 150th anniversary of the 1857 graduation of Cortlandt Van Rensselaer Creed from the Yale Medical School.

Creed was the son of a Yale University janitor. His mother was a teacher in the New Haven public schools. He was accepted for admission in 1854 and earned his medical degree in 1857.

Creed served as a surgeon for the Union Army during the Civil War. He then opened a practice in Connecticut which served both black and white patients. When James Garfield was shot in 1881, Creed was consulted by the president’s physicians. Creed died in 1900.

This June, Yale invited 20 of Creed’s descendants to New Haven for the medical school’s reunion weekend. The celebration included the unveiling of a monument over Creed’s grave in New Haven’s Grove Street Cemetery.