“The time is at hand, when every Christian country will demand that its highest and best educational appliances, organized in its universities, be made available to all comers, without respect to creed or race or sex.” —Boston University President William Fairfield Warren, 1874
From its inception, Boston University was conceived as a place of tolerance, opportunity, and hope.
Because of this founding principle, black students were welcomed here for many decades when they were rejected elsewhere. Leaders of the civil rights movement—most notably, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59)—found their voices here. And we are a better university because of the diversity of thought and experience we have long enjoyed on our campuses.
BU’s black community has created a story that’s worth remembering, assessing, and celebrating—even as its next chapters are being written.
A Rich and Complex Legacy
“We see in higher education that we are at our best when we are our most diverse—women, African Americans, Latinos, Jews, everyone.” —Cornell William Brooks (STH’87, Hon.’15).
In 1864, five years before Boston University’s official charter, the institution’s rich and complex black legacy began when Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first African American woman to earn an MD, graduated from the New England Female Medical College. (The College would, just a few years later, become a major founding component of BU’s School of Medicine.)
In the 147 years since Crumpler’s achievement, many black luminaries have passed through BU’s halls, setting standards for higher-education communities worldwide. From America’s first black psychiatrist, Solomon Carter Fuller (MED’1897), to civil rights icon and Nobel Peace Prize awardee Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59), the legacy of BU’s black alumni is a story of thought leaders, world changers, and tastemakers.