1896 – Booker T. Washington became the first African American to receive an honorary MA degree from Howard University.


June 24, 1896 – Booker T. Washington became the first African American to receive an honorary MA degree from Howard University.Booker T Washington retouched flattened-crop.jpg

Kris Snibbe
Harvard Staff Photographer

For example, on June 24, 1896, educator Booker T. Washington became the first African American to receive an honorary degree from Harvard University.
That evening, during an alumni dinner, Washington said: “In working out our destiny, while the main burden and center of activity must be with us, we shall need, in a large measure in the years that are to come, as we have in the past, the help, the encouragement, the guidance that the strong can give the weak. Thus helped, we of both races in the South soon shall throw off the shackles of racial and sectional prejudice and rise, as Harvard University has risen and as we all should rise, above the clouds of ignorance, narrowness and selfishness, into that atmosphere, that pure sunshine, where it will be our highest ambition to serve MAN, our brother, regardless of race or previous condition.”

Speech cited from Booker T. Washington’s Address at the Alumni Dinner of Harvard University.

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