Another Light on the Hill Black Students at Tufts

Founding - 1919

While evidence suggests that Black students may have been enrolled at Tufts College during the late 19th century, the year in which the first Black student enrolled at the Medford campus or the year in which the first Black student graduated from the college has not been firmly established. Charles Sumner Wilson, a Salem native, transferred to Tufts for one year from Amherst College in 1876, but there is no record of his graduation. The first Black graduate identified was Forrester Blanchard Washington, A1909, also a native of Salem. While Washington would later go on to achieve prominence as a social worker, National Urban League official, Dean of the Atlanta University School of Social Work, and as a member of the “Black Cabinet” during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Washington was awarded the Moses True Brown Scholarship for 1908–09, but there are few additional mentions in university publications of his undergraduate experiences.

Charles Sumner Wilson attended both Amherst College and Tufts College before establishing a law practice in Salem, undated

Shortly after Washington's graduation, James Jeffress A1915 did enroll as a member of the Class of 1915. Like a number of the early Black students to attend Tufts before 1960, Jeffress was a resident of West Medford. While Jeffress was a math major who would later become a secondary-school teacher, but little is known of his on-campus experiences. Although Jeffress may have been the only Black undergraduate on campus, several of the Black professional and graduate students took part in campus activities, particularly on sports teams. As professional students were not barred from inter-collegiate sports, Black students from the School of Dentistry did play varsity football in the pre- and post-World War One years. The first Black woman to practice dentistry in Massachusetts, Jessie Katherine Gideon Garnett D1919, attended the School of Dental Medicine and was the only woman and Black student in her graduating class.

– Gill, "Another Light on the Hill" with further research by Cat Rosch AG22