Important Dates in Black Princeton University History




2013     Shirley M. Tilghman, Princeton University's 19th President, steps down after a transformative presidency which includes several efforts that were particularly important to the Black university community: the creation of the Center for African American Studies, and the opening of its new home in historic Stanhope Hall; The Carl A. Fields Center (formerly the Third World Center) moved to its new home at 58 Prospect Street; increased resources devoted to Black alumni engagement leading to Coming Back Black alumni conferences and Connect: A Black Alumni Leadership Initiative.


2012     Connect: A Black Alumni Leadership Initiative, within the Aspire Campaign, exceeded its fundraising goals.


              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.


2011     Brent Henry �69 became the first black alumnus named vice chair of the University Trustees.


         Sonia Sotomayor �76, University Trustee, is appointed to the United States Supreme Court.


2010    ABPA recognized Lauren 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.


2009     The Carl A. Fields Center (formerly TWC) moved into its new home at 58 Prospect Street.


              "Coming Back & Moving Forward Conference for Black Princeton Alumni� was the largest gathering of Black alumni in University history, 650 attend the largest gathering of Black alumni in University historyConference website.


         Producer, Melvin McCray �74 releases Looking Forward: Reflections of Black Princeton Alumni, a video documentary of the history of African American students based upon interviews at the "Coming Back and Looking Forward Conference."


              Barack Obama S85 was inaugurated as the 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.


              Terri Sewell �86 elected to the United States Congress to represent Selma, the 7th Congressional District of Alabama.


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     "Coming Back and Looking Forward: A Princeton University Conference for Black Princeton Alumni,� spearheaded by Kenneth M. Bruce '83, ABPA president, and was attended by over 500 people, the largest gathering of Black alumni in the University's history.  Conference website.


              The University established the Center for African American Studies.


              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.


               The University sponsored the Kaleidoscope Conference which focused on diversity issues.


        The Annual Pan-African Graduation Ceremony 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.


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.


              The ABPA Celebrates it's 30th Anniversary.


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.


        Melvin McCray �74 and Calvin H. Norman, III '77 produce "Looking Back: Reflections of Black Princeton Alumni,� a video documentary on the history of African American students at Princeton for the University�s 250th anniversary.


        Brent Henry �69 became the first black alumnus elected chair of the Alumni Council and president of the Alumni Association.


1996     Prof. 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.


1995     Blacks Experience Princeton Experiencing Blacks: 50 Years of Reflection was published as an eight part series in the Daily Princetonian:

      First black students face isolation, racism By MAGGIE SHI Daily Princetonian, Volume 119, Number 28, 7 March 1995

      University focuses on integration By MAGGIE SHI (Second in a series.) Daily Princetonian, Volume 119, Number 29, 8 March 1995

      Black alumni recall 1960s By MAGGIE SHI (Third in a series) Daily Princetonian, Volume 119, Number 30, 9 March 1995

      TWC provides home for blacks By SWATI DUTTA ROY (Fourth in a series) Daily Princetonian, Volume 119, Number 32, 20 March 1995

      Blacks unite, fight racism in '70s By SWATI DUTTA ROY (Fifth in a series) Daily Princetonian, Volume 119, Number 33, 21 March 1995

      College system erodes black student unity By SWATI DUTTA ROY (Sixth in a series) Daily Princetonian, Volume 119, Number 34, 22 March 1995

     Subtle racism pervades campus By DAVID CZUCHLEWSKI (Seventh in a series) Daily Princetonian, Volume 119, Number 35, 23 March 1995

      Blacks seek improvements to race relations By DAVID CZUCHLEWSKI (Final article in a series) Daily Princetonian, Volume 119, Number 36, 24 March 1995

      Black students face social obstacles, isolation in 1960s By MAGGIE SHI (This article was part of a series called "Blacks Experience Princeton Experiencing Blacks: 50 Years of Reflection" that ran March 1995) Reprinted for the Daily Princetonian Special Alumni Day Issue, Volume 120, Number 16, 24 February 1996


              Akira Bell '95, the daughter of Linda Brantley Bell Black­burn �71, graduated and they became the first mother daughter Princeton graduates.


              The ABPA  Newsletter, December 1995, Volume VII, No. 1


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.


1983     Jerome Davis '71 and the ABPA presented a bust of Frederick Douglass, by Inge Hardison, to Princeton University on the occasion of ABPA�s tenth anniversary celebration.  The bust includes a plaque which recognizes the annual recipients of the Frederick Douglass Awards, established by the University in 1968.  The bust was originally installed in the main study room of Firestone Library; and in 2009 it was relocated and became the main focal point upon entry to the  Center for African American Studies in Stanhope. 


              Eugene Y. Lowe, Jr. �71 appointed Dean of Students.


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.


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.


              John Cardwell, Ph.D.�68, the first undergraduate of color to earn a degree in psychology, returns as a Visiting Lecturer to teach Issues in Black Personality Seminar.


1977     The Black Arrival at Princeton: The university's first black administrator looks back on the 1960'sby Carl A. Fields was printed in the Princeton Alumni Weekly (PAW), April 18, 1977 edition, and the second part of the article, A Time of Adjustment: The early years of black and minority presence at Princeton followed in the April 25, 1977PAW.The series truly captures the challenges of integrating minority students into the traditional Princeton experience.  (Articles reproduced with the permission of the Princeton Alumni Weekly and the estate of Dr. Carl A Fields)


              Jill Pilgrim '80 becomes the first Black woman in Ivy League history to become first team All-Ivy, when she is recognized as All-Heptagonal (Ivy League, plus Army & Navy) first team in track and field.


             ABPA does first Black alumni survey which helps understand who they were, why they came to Princeton, what they gained, and how they can best contribute to the university community.


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 Princeton 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.   The same year, Brent 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.


              A New Era for the Negro at Princeton by Bob Durkee '69 in the Dailly Princetonian.


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.




****     Kenneth M. Bruce '83 served as editor.  Elizabeth A. Greenberg '02, University Office of the Alumni Association, edited the version provided during the Coming Back & Moving Forward Conference; Daniel J. Linke, University Archivist, edited a related referenced timeline: Access to Higher Education: A National and Princeton Timeline; James A. Floyd, Jr. '69; Melvin R. McCray, Jr. '74; Robert Durkee '69, University Secretary; Lauren Robinson Ugorji '85, University Director of Communications; and  Black­burn �71 contributed to the development of these important dates.




Who is Near Me?

Search for classmates by distance from your town or any place else.

Any information concerning classmates and their families, class events and activities now resides in a password-protected area on this website.  Paid members of the ABPA may register using their University ID number (as found on your PAW mailing label).  
Please contact us at abpa@alumni.princeton.edu if you need help with website registration.

Quick Links


Copyright © 2005-2017. All Rights Reserved. This page was created by and for the Association of Black Princeton Alumni. Information on this page is intended for individual communication of a personal nature among Princetonians. Use of this information for any other purpose is strictly prohibited. The Association of Black Princeton Alumni is solely responsible for the content on this page. Although we make every effort to keep this information accurate, we cannot guarantee it. Site design by Bobson Wong.