Important Dates in Black Princeton University History
2013 Shirley M. Tilghman, Princeton University's 19th President, steps down after a transformative presidency.
Lisa P. Jackson *86 was the first black alumna to win the James Madison Medal, which is presented each year by the University to a graduate alumnus/a who has had a distinguished career, advanced the cause of graduate education or achieved an outstanding record of public service. Lisa served as the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator and served in President Obama's cabinet.
2010 ABPA recognized Lauren Robinson Robinson Ugorji '85, University Director of Communications (2009) and Marilyn H. Marks *86, Princeton Alumni Weekly (PAW) Editor (2010) for "changing the face of Princeton” by consistently including people of color in Princeton communication vehicles and in the editorially independent PAW.
The Carl A. Fields Center (formerly TWC) moved into its new home at 58 Prospect Street.
Barack Obama S85 became first African American President in U.S. history and Michelle Obama ’85 became the first Princetonian and first African American First Lady in U.S. history.
2008 John Rogers ’80 was the first black alumnus to win the Woodrow Wilson Award, which is bestowed annually upon an undergraduate alumnus whose career embodies the spirit of "Princeton in the Nation’s Service.” John went on to serve as co-chair for the 2009 Obama-Biden Presidential Inaugural Committee.
2007 Princeton played against Hampton University in football at Princeton Stadium, which is the first time that Princeton played a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and only the second time that an Ivy League University played an HBCU.
Stanhope Hall opened as the new home for the Center for African American Studies, after an extensive renovation.
Leading Change in Science and Technology: A Princeton Engineering Conference for Black Alumni was organized by Prof. William Massey '77 and attended by about 100 alumni.
2006 The University increased resources devoted to Black alumni engagement and the office of the Alumni Association appointed Marguerite Hadley Vera '79 as associate director of affiliated groups, which includes ABPA, and the director of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations.
"Coming Back and Looking Forward: A Princeton University Conference for Black Princeton Alumni,” spearheaded by Kenneth M. Bruce '83, ABPA president, was attended by over 500 people, the largest gathering of Black alumni in the University's history. Conference website.
The Annual Pan-African Graduation was created to celebrate the achievements of graduates from the African diaspora and to reflect on the unique cultural experiences of students from Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and the United States. The ceremony includes the presentation of kente stoles and musical and religious elements drawn from different Pan-African traditions.
The University established the Center for African American Studies.
2003 Princeton alumni, led by founder Henry Von Kohorn '66, and the University launched the Princeton Prize in Race Relations, an awards program to recognize, support and encourage high school students who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the cause of positive race relations. Beginning in Boston and Washington, D.C., over time the Princeton Prize has expanded to 23 regions across the country.
Supreme Court upholds the affirmative action policies of the University of Michigan in Grutter v. Bollinger.
2002 The Third World Center was renamed the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding.
1999 Princeton in Africa, co-founded by Jim Floyd '69, develops young leaders committed to Africa’s advancement by offering yearlong fellowship opportunities.
1998 Princeton takes first major steps to transform its financial aid policies, followed in 2001 by the ground-breaking "no-loan” policy.
1997 ABPA Celebrates 25th Anniversary and Robert L. Johnson *72, CEO, Black Entertainment Television (BET) provides the keynote.
ent Henry ’69 became the first black alumnus elected chair of the Alumni Council and president of the Alumni Association.
1996 Cornel West *80 was the first black alumnus to win the James Madison Medal, which is presented each year by the University to a graduate alumnus/a who has had a distinguished career, advanced the cause of graduate education or achieved an outstanding record of public service.
1993 Toni Morrison, the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities, was the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.
On March 1st, Vice Provost Ruth Simmons issues "Report on Campus Race Relations.”
1989 Andrew Young, then-Mayor of Atlanta and past U.S. Congressman and U.N. Ambassador, was the first African American to deliver the University’s Baccalaureate address.
1981 The ABPA held its first Reunions reception, at the urging of Emmett Haines Pritchard '71, and it became an annual tradition. One year later, C. Steve Dawson '70, ABPA president, led the way and the ABPA began presenting annual awards to honor notable alumni and faculty or staff members for their achievements and service.
1983 Eugene Y. Lowe, Jr. ’71 appointed Dean of Students.
1980s The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration began at Princeton with undergraduate students organizing an annual observation to honor the late civil rights leader. In 1995, the University offered to support the program, making it open to the entire campus and neighboring communities. Since then, the highly-attended program has come to include essay, poster and video contests for schoolchildren, notable speakers and entertainment.
1978 Regents of the University of California v. Bakke decision condemns use of quotas in college admission but concludes that it is permissible to take race into account, as one among several factors, in seeking to secure the educational benefits of diversity. Justice Powell’s decision quotes University President William Bowen’s writing on the value of diversity.
1972 The Association of Black Princeton Alumni (ABPA) was founded by Howard W. Bell, Jr. '70, Michael C. Calhoun '70, W. Roderick Hamilton '69, Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. '70, Jerome Davis '71, Carl E. Drummond '71, and Girardeau Spann '71. Black alumni were less than one percent of Princeton's alumni and ABPA's initial goals were to foster Black alumni interaction and improve the Black student experience. The group had the support of outgoing University president, Robert F. Goheen '40 *48 and gained the support of new University president, William G. Bowen *58.
1971 The Third World Center (TWC) was created when the trustees approved the designation of the old Osborn Field House as a University facility to be used primarily, but not exclusively, by minority students.
Jerome Davis '71 was the first black student selected as a Rhodes Scholar.
1970 Larry Ellis was named head coach of track and field and cross country, making him the first African American head coach of any sport in the Ivy League. He later coached the U.S. Olympic men’s track and field team in the Los Angeles Games of 1984.
Howard Bell ’70 was the first black student to receive the Moses Taylor Pyne Honor Prize, the highest general distinction conferred on an undergraduate.
Jerome Davis ’71 was the first black student elected USG president.
1969 First Black Undergraduate Women Students on campus and they were given the friendly moniker the "Dirty Dozen”: Linda Blackburn ’71, Terrell Nash ’71, and Carla Wilson ’71 became the first black women to receive undergraduate degrees; Vera Marcus ’72 was the first admitted black female freshman to graduate; Juanita Ray ’71; Michele Page ’72; Celeste Brickler ’73; Tonna Gibert ’73; Barbara Green ’73; Carolyn Upshaw ’73; Laura Thomas ’74 and Jan Robinson ’75.
The Program in African American Studies was created.
Robert Rivers ’53 was selected by the board to be a University trustee, the first black alumnus to be so appointed. ent Henry ’69 was voted one of the first two young alumni trustees, becoming the first black alumnus to be elected trustee.
1968 The Frederick Douglass Awards were established by the University, at the recommendation of Carl A. Fields, to recognize one or more seniors exhibiting "courage, leadership, intellectual achievement and a willingness to contribute unselfishly toward a deeper understanding of the experiences of racial minorities and who, in so doing, reflect the tradition of service embodied in education at Princeton.” The first awards were presented on Class Day to ABC leaders, Paul Williams ’68 and Deane Buchanan ’68.
1967 The Association of Black Collegians (ABC) was created at Princeton to focus on the specific concerns of African American students. That year ABC presented "The Future of the Black Undergraduate,” a University-sponsored conference, which attracted 200 black students from major colleges and universities throughout the northeastern U.S.
1966 Carl Fields developed the "Family Sponsor Program" which paired Black students and local Black families, creating a host "home away from home." Jim Floyd, Jr. '69’s parents, Jim and Fannie Floyd, were among the first family participants.
1964 Carl A. Fields was appointed the assistant director of student aid, making Princeton the first Ivy League college to appoint a black administrator. Four years later, his promotion to Assistant Dean of the College made worldwide headlines.
1963 Sir W. Arthur Lewis, a renowned economist known for his pioneering research in development economics, was appointed the James Madison Professor of Political Economy and became Princeton’s first black full professor. He was knighted the same year by Queen Elizabeth II. In 1979, he received the Nobel Prize in Economics – the first black person to receive a Nobel Prize in a category other than peace or literature.
The Princeton Cooperative School-College program was established, aiming to "enlarge the pool of qualified Negro candidates for higher education.” It later sought to include students from other socio-economically disadvantaged groups from area public and private schools.
1960 Martin Luther King, Jr. preaches at the University Chapel.
1959 Princeton University conferred the Doctor of Humanities honorary degree upon opera singer Marian Anderson, making her the first African American woman to receive such an honor.
1955 Charles T. Davis was appointed as an assistant professor in the English department, becoming the first black scholar to hold a professorship at Princeton.
1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision holds that racially segregated schools are inherently unequal.
1951 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ralph Bunche received an honorary degree from the University; he is believed to be the first African American to be so honored.
1948 On August 24th, Princeton issued a statement to the Judiciary Committee on the Assembly of the State Legislature in response to the Proposed Act Assembly 512, legislation that challenged discriminatory practices in institutions of higher learning in NJ: "It is, however, the position of Princeton University that discriminatory practices in a private educational institutions cannot be corrected, in any fundamental or long-range manner, by police legislation. The only sound prescription for their eradication is to provide a climate in which they cannot thrive. No punitive law can create such a climate.”
1947 Joseph Ralph Moss ’51, believed to be the University’s first regularly-admitted black undergraduate, arrived on campus in the fall of 1947, only months after Jackie Robinson integrated baseball.
1945 James Everett Ward '48 and Arthur "Pete” Jewell Wilson, Jr. ’47 are both admitted to the Navy’s V-12 Program in 1945. Pete was the first black athlete at Princeton. He was a starter and key player on the Tigers’ 1944-45 basketball team, becoming team captain the following season. He also played sprint football and ran track during his time on campus.
1944 Congress passes the GI Bill of Rights, which provides WWII veterans with benefits including education grants. This year also marked the establishment of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) by Frederick D. Patterson, which was organized to help support African American college students.
1942 The Daily Princetonian published a series of front-page editorials calling on the University to admit African Americans. A poll showed the faculty approved of undergraduate integration by a 3-to-1 margin, but only a bare majority of the undergraduate body concurred.
Princeton belatedly admits its first African American undergraduates in conjunction with the Navy’s V-12 program, which was designed to select and train highly qualified men for commissioning as officers in the Navy. A Naval Training School opens at Princeton on October 5 that enrolled four African American officer candidates. John Leroy Howard ’47, was the first to graduate from the Navy’s V-12 program and became the first black student to earn a degree from Princeton.
1935 Bruce Wright was admitted as an undergraduate but was sent home upon his arrival on campus, when the administration realized he was an African American. He later became a prominent lawyer and New York State Supreme Court judge. The Class of 2001 honored Wright during its Class Day exercises, naming him an honorary class member.
1922 Princeton changes undergraduate admissions procedures to include greater consideration of subjective non-academic criteria, largely in order to limit admission of Jewish applicants.
1909 Woodrow Wilson, University president, protects Princeton’s racial homogeneity, writing that it would be "altogether inadvisable for a colored man to enter.”
1895 Rev. Irwin William Langston Roundtree became the first African American to earn a Master of Arts degree from the College of New Jersey (Princeton University’s former name).
1890s Alexander Dumas Watkins was Princeton's first African American instructor, tutoring students in histology, a branch of anatomy. Watkins was largely self-taught and served as an assistant to Professor William Libbey, Class of 1877.
1870s Four black students at the Princeton Theological Seminary attended lectures conducted by college president James McCosh. Several white college students appealed to McCosh to expel the "negro” students and threatened to leave the school if they remained. McCosh refused and some college students left as promised, only to return a short time later, begging to be readmitted. They were permitted to return and attended class with the black students without further incident.
1843 James Collins, an African-born slave, escaped from Maryland, fled to Princeton, and changed his name to James Johnson. He was recognized by a Maryland student who informed the authorities. Johnson was arrested, tried and convicted of violating the Fugitive Slave Act, but his freedom was purchased by a descendant of President Witherspoon. He became a licensed vendor on the Princeton University campus, and sold fruit, peanuts and candy to students out of a wheelbarrow for the next 50 years. Johnson died in 1902 at the age of 87 and was so beloved by Princeton alumni and students they erected a headstone at his gravesite.
1792 John Chavis, a free black man, was probably the first African American to study at Princeton. It is unclear whether Chavis matriculated as a regular student or was privately tutored by President John Witherspoon. Chavis became the first black minister licensed to preach by the Presbyterian Church, and later opened the Chavis School in Raleigh, North Carolina, which educated both white and free black children.
**** Elizabeth A. Greenberg '02, Office of the Alumni Association; Robert Durkee '69, University Secretary; Daniel J. Linke, University Archivist; Lauren Robinson Ugorji '85, University Director of Communications; James A. Floyd, Jr. '69; Linda Blackburn ’71; Melvin R. McCray, Jr. '74 and Kenneth M. Bruce '83 contributed to the development of these important dates.