New Community Engagement Awards Honor Early Black Student at Yale

Yale University has announced the first cohort of 20 high school juniors who are the winners of the Bassett Award for Community Engagement. The award honors emerging leaders who have distinguished themselves through a record of creative leadership and public service, academic distinction, interdisciplinary problem solving, and experience addressing societal issues.

The award program honors Ebenezer Bassett, the first African American to be appointed to a diplomatic post by the United States. Basset was named Minster Resident to Haiti in 1869. Bassett was the first Black student to enroll at what is now Central Connecticut State University. He also took classes in mathematics and the classics at Yale in the 1850s. Bassett also served as the principal of the Philadelphia Institute for Colored Youth, which later became Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.

The first 20 winners of the Bassett Award for Community Engagement were selected from a pool of more than 800 applicants. Winners will come to Yale in October.

Stephen Pitti, director of the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration, said he was “deeply impressed by the high school students from around the country whom we considered for the Yale Bassett Award. It was moving to learn about their dedication to public service and leadership, their commitment to social change, and their accomplishments as scholars. This year’s Yale Bassett Award winners already play key roles in their communities, and we are thrilled to imagine all that they will do in the years to come.”

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