The African American Student Project
at the University of Michigan
Let Every Story Be Told
The mission of the African American Student Project is to identify every African American student who attended the University of Michigan from its founding in 1817 to 1970. You can use this site to learn more about the project, explore the names and data that have been uncovered to date, and share your stories.
A message from Angela Dillard, the Richard A. Meisler Collegiate Professor of Afroamerican & African Studies, History, and in the Residential College, the Chair of the Department of History, and a member of the executive committee of the Bentley Historical Library.
As a member of the executive committee of the Bentley Historical Library (BHL), I invite you to join us in the BHL community as we launch a new, long-term project on the history of African Americans at the University of Michigan.
This project begins, as it should, with the lives of African American students at the University, and we are calling this website, appropriately, the African American Student Project.
Here you will find a database listing the names and years of attendance of every African American student who attended the University for any length of time from 1853 until 1970. In structuring the list in this way, we follow the practice of the Alumni Association of the U-M (UMAA), which defines an alum as anyone who attended the University for any length of time. This is the first installment of this database, and we intend to add to it as more data become available.
Here you will see a collection of stories, autobiographies, and biographies about some of the remarkable African American students who attended the University and the diverse nature of their experiences.
For most of the University’s history, these experiences were a combination of institutional barriers and the determination to overcome them.
One problematic factor for African American students was finding housing. It was not until 1915 that the first dormitories—for women—were built on the campus and, prior to that, all students had to find places to live in local boarding houses. Here you will see a map of the ways in which African American residences were segregated between 1853 and 1973. Even when more dormitories were added during the 1930s, for both men and women, they were significantly segregated. You can read a story here about the separate housing that the University itself maintained for African American women.
And we ask for your help with this project.
- Please use the database. Is there incomplete or incorrect information there involving your family and friends? If so, use the form below to contact us.
- Please share stories with us. Are there people who should be highlighted on this website? Tell us who through the form at the bottom of the page.
- Please consider donating your archives to the Bentley Historical Library. Historical records of African American students, their living situations, their organizations, and their overall experiences on this campus are sadly rare. We need to make it possible for succeeding generations to be more familiar with the stories than our own has been.
- Finally, keep in touch! We will be adding information to this database continuously and we will update you on our collective progress.
Thank you for joining us on this exciting historical journey.
Collaborations and Contributions
Do you have a direct connection to this research or a critical story we should know about? Collaboration is essential for this project and we want to hear from you.
(Top to bottom) Professor Angela Dillard among archival materials at the Bentley Historical Library; student information card for Marjorie A. Blackistone.
Women of the Class of 1887Read More
University of Michigan Baseball Team, 1883Read More
Katherine Louise CrawfordRead More
Enrollment card for 1931-32 filled out by E'Dora Morton, the first African American woman to live in the Mosher-Jordan dormitory.Read More
(Top to bottom) Professor Angela Dillard among archival materials at the Bentley Historical Library; student information card for Marjorie A. Blackistone.Read More
Negro-Caucasian ClubRead More
Group on Steps of Alpha Phi Alpha HouseRead More
Black Action Movement (BAM) Strike, 1970
Black Action Movement protesters march with signs in front of Hill Auditorium on March 20, 1970. The image is from a series of surveillance photographs taken by the University of Michigan Safety Department during the BAM strike. Source: Safety Dept. (University of Michigan) photograph collection, Box 1, BAM, March 1970
George Jewett, 1892
George Jewett was from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and attended the University of Michigan Medical School between 1890 and 1893. In 1890, Jewett became the first African American to play on the varsity football team. He completed his medical studies at Northwestern in 1895. This may be a wedding portrait taken later in his life. Source: Scan from copy print loaned by Coleman Jewett
Women of the Class of 1887
Group photograph of the senior women of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts class of 1887. Frederica Florence Jones is pictured in the top right, the lone African American woman in her class. Her sister, Sophia Bethena Jones, earned an M.D. in 1885, and was the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Michigan Medical School. Source: University of Michigan Photographs Vertical File, Class of 1887, F99-504 (Medium)
"Den of the Mellow Men" 1971
Michigan football players pose in front of their off-campus house at 1345 Geddes Road called “The Den of the Mellow Men.” Players pictured are Billy Taylor, Glen Doughty, Thom Darden, Alden “Butch” Carpenter, Michael Oldham, and Michael Taylor. Fellow football player Reggie McKenzie also lived at the house. They were part of the largest group of Black athletes on athletic scholarship at that time. Source: Athletic Department (University of Michigan) records, Box 11, Folder: 1971, Mellow Men
Mosher Jordan dormitory, 1930
This Mosher Jordan dormitory opened in 1930 with space for more than 400 women students. African American women were initially excluded from living in the new dormitory and were instead encouraged to live in a segregated house for “colored women.” In 1932, E’Dora Morton became the first African American woman to live in Mosher Jordan. Image taken by A.F. Crooks. Source: Alumni Association (University of Michigan) records, Box 135, Mosher-Jordan Hall: Exteriors
Cornelius Henderson, 1911
Senior photograph of Cornelius Langston Henderson from the 1911 University of Michigan Michiganensian yearbook. Henderson earned a degree from the College of Engineering in 1911. He worked with the Canadian Bridge Company and helped design the Ambassador Bridge between the United States and Canada. Source: 1911 Michiganensian yearbook
Students in Class
Students in a University of Michigan Law School class around the late 1960s. Source: University of Michigan News and Information Services Photographs, Box E-16, Student Activities
Vivian Deborah Wilson Student Card
Student information card for Vivian D. Wilson containing local addresses, home address, occupation of parents, and other data maintained about student life by the Dean of Women at the University of Michigan. It also includes a photograph taken at the time of enrollment. Source: University of Michigan Alumni Files, 1845-1978, Wilson, Vivian Deborah
W. E.B. DuBois "Crisis" letter
Letter from W.E.B. DuBois to the University of Michigan requesting information on graduating African American students for publication in the NAACP's magazine, The Crisis. The annual education issue featured names, stories, and statistics on African American college graduates. Source: Harry Burns Hutchins paers, Box 13, Correspondence, May 1-7, 1917
University of Michigan Baseball Team, 1883
Team photos of the 1883 University of Michigan baseball team featuring Weldy Wilberforce Walker, the second African American to play baseball at Michigan. His brother, Moses Fleetwood Walker, was on the 1882 team. Source: University of Michigan Athletic Department records, Box 25, Team Photos, 1882-1900
Katherine Louise Crawford
Katherine Louise Crawford graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1898 and opened a medical practice in Ann Arbor. Source: University of Michigan BMC Media Services records, Box 6, Class photos - Graduation, 1890-1899
Enrollment card for 1931-32 filled out by E'Dora Morton, the first African American woman to live in the Mosher-Jordan dormitory.
Enrollment card for 1931-32 filled out by E'Dora Morton, the first African American woman to live in Mosher-Jordan dormitory. Source: University of Michigan Alumni Files, 1845-1978, Morton, E'Dora Susie
(Top to bottom) Professor Angela Dillard among archival materials at the Bentley Historical Library; student information card for Marjorie A. Blackistone.
Student information card for Marjorie A. Blackistone containing local addresses, home address, occupation of parents, and other data maintained by the Dean of Women at the University of Michigan. It also includes a photograph taken at the time of enrollment. Source: University of Michigan Alumni Files, 1845-1978, Blackistone, Marjorie Adelle
Members of the Negro-Caucasian Club, a campus group established in 1926 to study and discuss problems in relations between races. The club brought several prominent speakers to campus, including Alain LeRoy Locke, and W.E.B. DuBois, before it disbanded in 1930. Source: 1927 Michiganenisan yearbook, page 323
Group on Steps of Alpha Phi Alpha House
This group photo was taken around 1912 on the front steps of 1017 Catherine Avenue in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the location of the Epsilon chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Alpha Phi Alpha is the oldest African American fraternity. The Epsilon chapter was established at Michigan in 1909. The photo is by Ann Arbor-based Lyndon Photo Studio. Source: Alpha Phi Alpha, Epsilon Chapter (University of Michigan) photograph collection
Search for Names
The African American Student Database
Start here by searching our database containing almost 6,000 names of individual African American students. You can also click “advanced search” to query data fields including hometowns, local addresses, degrees earned, membership in fraternities and sororities, and much more.
Submit Corrections, Additions, or Omissions to the Database
Because the University didn’t track students by race prior to 1970, these names have been compiled through robust research. That said, there may be names we may have missed, corrections to be made, or other relevant information to contribute. If you have contributions or corrections, we are eager to hear from you.
Mapping where African American students lived brings the nature of housing segregation into sharp focus. With the help of University of Michigan Visualization Librarian Justin Joque and his team, the mass of collected information on local addresses and events was integrated with a 1930 Sanborn insurance map of Ann Arbor, overlaid on a large regional map, and used as the basis for mapping the addresses.
Autobiographies and Biographies
Explore the personal stories of African American alumni through their autobiographies and biographies.
The Unlikely Saga of a Singer from Ann ArborRead More
A Man’s Life: An AutobiographyRead More
Stand Up Straight and Sing!Read More
The Odyssey of a North American EducatorRead More
From Crumbs to Gravy: The Autobiography of Mary Olivia Brookins RossRead More
Being Black, Looking White ... My WorldRead More
The Quiet TrailblazerRead More
The Rest of the Dream: The Black Odyssey of Lyman JohnsonRead More
Upward: A History of Norfolk State UniversityRead More
Autobiography of Lawrence C. BryantRead More
Memoirs of a Black Psychiatrist: A Life of Advocacy for Social ChangeRead More
Hot Fudge Sundae in a White Paper Cup: A Spirited Black Woman in a White WorldRead More
Voices and SilencesRead More
Every Man Should TryRead More
Me, Cazzie RussellRead More
From a Small Town to the World: My StoryRead More
News LadyRead More
Up From PovertyRead More
Open Secrets: A Poor Person’s Life in Higher EducationRead More
Henry Fitzbutler: Detroit’s First Black Medical StudentRead More
Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart: The Life of Baseball’s First Black Major LeaguerRead More
Get Back Up: The Billy Taylor StoryRead More
The Unlikely Saga of a Singer from Ann Arbor
A highly accomplished classical singer, Willis Charles Patterson had a wide-ranging career, which included over 40 years as an inspirational educator in Michigan’s School of Music.Learn More
A Man’s Life: An Autobiography
Roger Wilkins was a leader in the fight for civil rights in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations before becoming a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist.Learn More
Stand Up Straight and Sing!
Jessye Norman was one of the world’s most beloved opera singers and recitalists, performing across the globe for nearly fifty years.Learn More
The Odyssey of a North American Educator
William Jimmerson Holloway led a long and distinguished career as an educational administrator, first in historically segregated Black colleges and then as part of efforts to end segregation.Learn More
From Crumbs to Gravy: The Autobiography of Mary Olivia Brookins Ross
Mary Olivia Brookins Ross was an educator and devout Baptist who led the women’s branch of the National Baptist Convention for more than thirty years.Learn More
Being Black, Looking White ... My World
Sylvia Lash Holman’s extraordinary life has taken her from segregated North Carolina to Ann Arbor where she spent decades as a teacher and advocate for educational equity.Learn More
The Quiet Trailblazer
Mary Frances Early was a celebrated musical educator and committed “foot soldier” in the struggle for civil rights, becoming the first Black graduate of the University of Georgia.Learn More
The Rest of the Dream: The Black Odyssey of Lyman Johnson
Lyman Johnson was an educator and a key leader in the fight for civil rights in Kentucky for more than 40 years.Learn More
Upward: A History of Norfolk State University
Lyman Beecher Brooks dedicated his life to education and to historically Black Norfolk State University, which he led for nearly 40 years.Learn More
Autobiography of Lawrence C. Bryant
Lawrence Chesterfield Bryant taught at historically Black colleges across the South and organized the first genealogical programs for African Americans in the Carolinas.Learn More
Memoirs of a Black Psychiatrist: A Life of Advocacy for Social Change
James L. Curtis is an accomplished psychiatrist and was a leading figure in the struggle to end racism and segregation in medicine and particularly medical schools.Learn More
Hot Fudge Sundae in a White Paper Cup: A Spirited Black Woman in a White World
Born in de facto segregated Ann Arbor, Gwendolyn Calvert Baker rose from elementary school teacher to head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).Learn More
Voices and Silences
James Earl Jones is one of America’s most distinguished and versatile actors with a career in film and theater stretching over more than six decades.Learn More
Every Man Should Try
Hubert A. Eaton was an extremely skilled tennis player, but more than that he was an accomplished physician and leader in the struggle for civil rights in North Carolina.Learn More
Me, Cazzie Russell
Cazzie Lee Russell was an incredible basketball talent who led Michigan to three Big Ten titles and whose exploits gave Crisler Arena the nickname “the house Cazzie built.”Learn More
From a Small Town to the World: My Story
David L. Stratmon dedicated his life to America’s foreign service, serving as a diplomat and cultural affairs officer throughout Africa and the Middle East.Learn More
Carole Simpson is a familiar face to millions of Americans. A career reporter, she was the “news lady” who anchored ABC’s weekend news for more than 15 years.Learn More
Up From Poverty
Clarence Norris was a proud University of Michigan alumnus who dedicated his life to teaching and to administering historically Black community colleges in Texas.Learn More
Open Secrets: A Poor Person’s Life in Higher Education
Betty Brown Chappel challenged and overcame the “open secrets” of discrimination to carve a place as a social worker and educator at Eastern Michigan University.Learn More
Henry Fitzbutler: Detroit’s First Black Medical Student
William Henry Fitzbutler was Michigan’s first Black medical graduate and had a long and distinguished career as a physician and educator in Kentucky.Learn More
Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart: The Life of Baseball’s First Black Major Leaguer
Long before Jackie Robinson, Moses Fleetwood Walker was the first African American to play professional baseball in the major leagues, playing for the Toledo Blue Stockings in the 1880s.Learn More
Get Back Up: The Billy Taylor Story
One of Michigan’s most celebrated football players, William Taylor was buffeted by numerous personal tragedies and spent nearly 20 years living on Detroit’s streets before rebuilding his life and becoming an educator.Learn More
George W. Crockett Jr. was a distinguished attorney, accomplished jurist, and Congressman who dedicated his life to the struggle for civil rights for African Americans and for all those unjustly targeted by the law.Learn More