The African American Presence at MSU: Pioneers, Groundbreakers, and Leaders, 1900–1970

On May 31, 1907, Myrtle Craig, the first African American woman to graduate from what was then the Michigan Agricultural College, received her diploma from President Theodore Roosevelt, honored guest at the college's Semicentennial Jubilee celebration. From this auspicious beginning, succeeding generations of African Americans made their own marks in the history of the university.

It is known that black students were enrolled at the university as early as 1900. Others followed, attracted by the land-grant mission that promoted "the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes" in agriculture and the mechanical arts. By the end of the 1960s, 1,600 black students were enrolled and were represented in most degree programs.

While their numbers were never large in the first half of the century, African American students enrolled at the university exemplified leadership and achievement not only in their scholastic and extracurricular activities but in the careers they forged for themselves. Like the students who came before them, black faculty and administrators who joined the Michigan State University community made their presence felt through their unique contributions.

This exhibit honors some of these pioneers and their achievements.


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