For information about administrators, courses, alumni, etc. see African Americans at William & Mary.
For information about African American students denied admission to William & Mary prior to Brown v. Board of Education, see the following record groups in the Special Collections Research Center in Swem Library to begin your research: the Office of the President, Alvin Duke Chandler, UA 2.12, Box 22, Folder: Negro Education, 1950-1954; Office of the President, Davis Y. Paschall, UA 2.15, Folder: Negro Education; subsequent Office of the President record groups and other administrative records. In an apparent thrust at President Benjamin Ewell's sympathies, reparations to the College for the burning of the College (now the Wren) Building were delayed in 1872 by a rider that would have required William & Mary to admit black students.
With a fine sense of irony, George Greenhow, the College janitor in the antebellum years, liked to boast that he was "the only negro ever educated at William & Mary College." In a letter now at Colonial Williamsburg's Rockefeller Library ( July 9, 1928; to John D. Rockefeller), Greenhow's son, W. T. Greenhow, explains that Greenhow was taught to read and write by a William & Mary student in return for Mrs. Greenhow's doing the student's laundry. Greenhow (as Greenough) is mentioned too in The Owl, the 1854 student humor publication.
The first African American student to be accepted at the College of William & Mary was Hulon Willis, on March 22, 1951. A graduate of Virginia State College (now Virginia State University) and a teacher in the Norfolk, Virginia, school system, Willis enrolled in the summer graduate program in education at the College of William & Mary starting in summer 1951.2 He continued to attend summer sessions, and graduated with a master's degree in education, specializing in physical education, in August 1956.
Edward Augustus Travis
The second African American student to be accepted, but the first to receive a degree from the College of William & Mary, was Edward Augustus Travis. A graduate of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College, Travis was admitted on August 31, 1951, to study law at William & Mary. He received a Bachelor of Civil Law degree on August 13, 1954. For coverage of his graduation see New Journal and Guide (1916-2003) [Norfolk, Va] 28 Aug 1954: A11 (available in Swem via ProQuest database).
Miriam Johnson Carter
Miriam Johnson Carter received her Bachelor of Science in Education from Temple University and was admitted to study law on September 20, 1955. Mrs. Carter initially applied to William & Mary's graduate program in Education in 1955 while she was on a sabbatical leave from the school at which she was a teacher. Her application was rejected on the grounds that Virginia State College offered the same program. She went on to apply for a position with the Institute of Early American History and Culture and then the graduate program in aquatic biology at the Virginia Fisheries Laboratory (the present-day Virginia Institute of Marine Science) before being admitted to the law school. Carter was the first African American woman to attend William & Mary, though she withdrew at the end of the academic year.
Oscar Houser Blayton
The first African American undergraduate student, Oscar Houser Blayton, enrolled in 1963 and attended William & Mary for his freshman and sophomore years.
Bernard Bailey enrolled as a transfer student in the fall of 1964.
First Residential Students
The first female African American students to graduate, also the first black residential students, were Karen Ely, Lynn Briley, Janet Brown, who arrived as freshmen in fall 1967. At that time, there were three black male undergraduate students, all part-time, and one black male graduate student, who all lived off campus. All three women graduated from the College of William & Mary.
(Flat Hat, 10/20/1967, p. 16) The alumnae were honored during the 2011 Homecoming weekend.3 "On Saturday, November 10, 2012, the Jefferson-Taliaferro Hall Council hosted a celebration to unveil a plaque honoring the first three African American residential students at William & Mary, Janet Brown, Karen Ely, and Lynn Briley. The event included remarks from President W. Taylor Reveley, III, Dr. Vernon Hurte, Director of the Center for Student Diversity, and Tyler Bell, Vice President of the Hall Council. The plaque is located in the Jefferson Hall Basement Lounge."4
In 1969, six African-American students entered the College for the fall term. Viola Osborne Baskerville, class of 1973, recalled that there were only "about 12 undergraduate African-American students and three or four graduate students on campus." 5
African American students at the College formed the Black Student Organization in 1970. Warren W. Buck was the first president.6 No official statistics recorded the number of black students at that time, but the president, Davis Y. Paschall told the Board of Visitors in May 1970 that there were about 40 black students.
Fall 1970-Department of Health, Education and Welfare insists that the College make a more concentrated effort at recruitment. The College policy was that it refused to do so if it meant lowering admission standards.
1970-Hampton Institute Exchange Program approved to help the College maintain state funding.
January 1971-Hampton Institute Exchange Program dissolves due to lack of funding and student interest.
February 1976-Mu Upsilon Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. chartered.
1976-103 African American students attended the College (2.2%).
In 1980, 38 African-American freshmen had enrolled at William & Mary for the fall semester, down from 54 the previous fall. A total of 145 African-American students were on campus at that time.8
May 1981-Nu Chi chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. chartered.
1982-162 African American students attended the College (3.4%).
April 1982-Xi Lambda chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. chartered.
1983-153 African American students attended the College.
1985-195 African American students attended the College (4%).
1988-303 African American students attended the College (5.8%).
October 1988-First African American homecoming queen, Charlene Renee Jackson, class of 1988, elected.
January 1992-Xi Theta chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. chartered .
By 1992 the number of African Americans enrolled at the College "had risen to 527, or 6.8 percent of the 7,766 total undergraduate and graduate student body. The number of enrolled African-American students remained over 500 for five consecutive years."9
By 2000, the number of historically African-American fraternities and sororities on campus stood at 5: Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, and Zeta Phi Beta sorority.
circa 2003-Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. no longer active on campus.
February 2008-Gamma Alpha Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. chartered.
2009-Nu chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. no longer active on campus.
September 2010- Alpha Delta Sigma chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. chartered.
Academic Year 2016-2017-Eboni Brown serves as first female African-American Student Assembly President
Material in the Special Collections Research Center
- The Flat Hat student newspaper; most issues are available online through the W&M Digital Archive and researchers may also wish to use the index available in the SCRC by person's name, student group name, event, or topical heading.
- Colonial Echo yearbook has most volumes available online through the W&M Digital Archive.
- Alumni Gazette and Alumni Magazine, including: October 1950 editorial on integration on the horizon & letter from alumnus in follow-up issue (December?); Summer 1992 issue of the Alumni Gazette establishing the Hulon Willis Association for African American alumni.
- Winter 1993 issue of the student publication Jump! in which Karen Ely and Lynn Briley, two of the three first female and residential African American students at the College, were interviewed. They enrolled at William & Mary in the fall of 1967 and graduated in 1971.
- Alumni Association Records, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary. Among the records are some relating to the Hulon Willis Association, named for the College's first African-American graduate. This organization serves alumni of color.
- Black Studies Program Records, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary. This collection has fliers, catalogs, and other materials created by the College's Black Studies program.
- Grassroots Theatre Oral History Project, 1995-1996, in Department of Theater, Speech, and Dance Records, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary. The students interviewed many African American Williamsburg residents in the 1990s about memories of race relations in earlier years.
- Student Organizations Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary.
- Office of Student Diversity, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary.
- Stony the Road We Trod Project, Oral history interviews by William & Mary student Jenay Jackson, 2005.
- Box 22, Folder: Negro Education, 1950-1954, Office of the President, Alvin Duke Chandler Records, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary.
- Office of the President, Davis Y. Paschall Records, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary.
- Includes Oscar Blayton folder available through the W&M Digital Archive.
- Office of the President, Thomas A. Graves Records, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary.
- Office of the President, Paul R. Verkuil Records, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary.
- Guide to African-American Studies Resources in the Special Collections Research Center
- Guide for conducting research related to the College of William & Mary
- SCRC Collections Database: search by names, organization, subject, event, etc.
- Search the W&M Digital Archive for additional material, including African Americans at the College of William & Mary from 1950 to 1970 (2012) by Jaqueline Filzen.
- Initial content compiled by Nancy Hadley in 2002. Sources from the University Archives include: University Archives Subject File Collection, Students--African Americans and Students--Minorities, especially see "The Black Presence at William & Mary" for Willis and Tucker, and "Jump" for Ely, Briley, and Brown; Faculty-Alumni files of Edward Augustus Travis, Oscar Houser Blayton; Colonial Echo 1971, p. 165 for Black Student Organization; Subject file, Alumni Association-Hulon Willis Association; The College of William & Mary: A History, vol. 2, pp. 829-830 and footnotes, for Poe and the Black Student Organization.
- W&M's first residential African-American students honored, Ameya Jammi '12, November 4, 2011.
- "All of Us: The African-American Experience on Campus," Clenise Platt, class of 1994, William & Mary Alumni Magazine, Winter 2003/2004, Vol. 69, No. 2.
- 'Stony the Road We Trod' Oral History Project, Jenay Jackson, accessed 29 February 2008.
- Oral history interviews audio and transcripts (when available), included are interviews of Alyce Fordham (Mrs. Hulon) Willis and others.
- "Six Friends of the College Installed as Honorary Alumni", John T. Wallace, William & Mary Alumni Magazine Spring/Summer 2004, Vol. 69, No. 3/4.