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WashU History FAQ

Frequently asked questions about the history of Washington University in St. Louis (Missouri, USA). Pages maintained by University Archives.

Chronology of Events

Washington University admitted African Americans as early as the 1880s, but this policy did not survive the turn of the twentieth century. Records for the 19th century are incomplete, but we do know of African American students who enrolled in the university's college preparatory divisions (Smith Academy and Manual Training School, both dissolved in 1917) and in the School of Law. The earliest known African American degree recipient is Walter Moran Farmer, who graduated with an LL.B. degree from the School of Law in 1889.

The desegregation of the University began in the years immediately after World War II.

1947: School of Medicine and School of Social Work open admissions to African Americans.

1948: Graduate School of Arts and Sciences opens admissions to African Americans.

1949: All remaining graduate programs except Dentistry open admissions to African Americans.

1950: School of Dentistry opens admissions to African Americans.

Fall 1952: All undergraduate programs are opened to African Americans. The first African-American undergraduates entered the University in the Fall of 1952.

1953: Athletic programs are desegregated. Muriel LeGrand Givens, a University College student, is the first African American football player for the university.

1954: All residence halls, support services, and extracurricular activities were desegregated.

Ralph Morrow, Washington University in St. Louis: A History (St. Louis, Missouri Historical Society Press, 1996), p. 463-471. Available in Olin Library and in University Archives.
Candace O'Connor, Beginning a Great Work: Washington University in St. Louis, 1853 - 2003 (St. Louis, Washington University, 2003). Available in Olin Library and in University Archives.