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Decades before the civil rights era, the “forerunner generation” paved the way for desegregation
Special Collections, Rutgers University Paul Robeson – the scholar, athlete, actor, singer, and global activist who graduated from Rutgers College in 1919 – was the first African American to play for the Rutgers football team. In a new book in the Scarlet and Black project, Rutgers University continues to examine its historical relationship to race, slavery and disenfranchisement, telling the story of the university’s first black students, who were pioneers treated as outcasts on their own campus.
Scarlet and Black, Volume II: Constructing Race and Gender at Rutgers, 1865-1945 provides new context for the lives of Rutgers’ first African American students, the “forerunner generation” to the civil rights activists of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The list includes Paul Robeson , the renowned entertainer and human rights activist, and James Dickson Carr , Rutgers’ first black student who graduated in 1892 and went on to Columbia Law School and a successful legal career. It also includes Julia Baxter Bates , the college’s first African American female student, who coauthored the winning brief in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka , the case that declared school segregation unconstitutional.
The book also highlights lesser-known but equally notable figures, including Alice Jennings Archibald (the first black woman to obtain a graduate degree at Rutgers); Emma Andrews and Evelyn Sermons (the first black women to integrate the dorms at Rutgers’ Douglass Residential College); formerly enslaved Islay Walden (who attended […]