Who were the first African Americans at the University of Chicago? An Old Question
We are not alone in asking the question: "Who were the first African Americans to attend the University of Chicago?"
A surprising number of letter writers contacted the office of the President between 1900 and 1920 to ask just that. Since the University did not organize student lists by race or ethnicity, this question was difficult to answer. The University Registrar did, however, note on a student's transcript if he or she were "Negro" (See Strategies for Coping with the Social Issue section for examples).
Originally these notations were in the form of marginal notes on the transcripts, but some time between 1908 and 1915, the Registrar's Office added a line on the transcript form for entering a student's racial identity.
The earliest African American undergraduate alumni were Cora B. Jackson (1896), Spencer Cornelius Dickerson (1897), Richard Robert Wright, Jr. (1901), Monroe Nathan Work (1902), John Wesley Hubert (1903), James Garfield Lemon (1904), Cecilia Johnson (1906), Dudley Weldon Woodard (1906), George Franklin Thompson (1908), Garfield Allen Curry (1910), Earl Edward Finch (1910), and Georgiana Simpson (1911).
The first seven African American graduate alumni were Work (1903), Wright (1904), Charles H. Turner (1907), Woodard (1907), Carter G. Woodson (1908), Julian H. Lewis (1915) and Ernest Everett Just (1916).
By 1943, at least forty - five African Americans had earned PhD degrees from the University of Chicago, more than from any other university in the country.