The First Black Graduate of the University of Vermont


Official_Logo_tower_only copyIn 1996, JBHE published an article identifying the first Black graduates of the nation’s 50 flagship state universities. Using information provided to us by the universities and other sources, we identified George Washington Henderson as the first Black graduate of the University of Vermont. Henderson was born a slave in Virginia and moved to Vermont after the Civil War. He enrolled at the University of Vermont in 1875 and graduated in 1877. Henderson then studied theology at Yale and taught at Straight University in New Orleans and Wilberforce University in Ohio. Henderson died in 1936.

But new information has come to light that shows that Andrew Harris, described in an obituary published in the Rochester Daily Democrat as a “full-blooded Negro,” was a member of the Class of 1838 at the University of Vermont, nearly 40 years prior to the graduation of George Washington Henderson.

Research by Kevin Thornton, a senior lecturer in history at the University of Vermont, found that Harris was born in 1814 and adopted by a White family at the age of 2. He was rejected for admission at Union College and Middlebury College but accepted at the University of Vermont. The 1836 “records of examination” at the University of Vermont lists all students alphabetically with their marks for each course taken. Harris is listed alone at the bottom. At his graduation ceremonies, Harris was the only member of the class not permitted to address the assembly.

Harris moved to Philadelphia and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. He became a noted abolitionist. Harris died on December 1, 1841 at the age of 27.

Related Articles


Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Alcorn State University Recruited for Federal Student Pathway Program for Careers in Public Service

The Pathway Public Service Program was established in 2019 to develop the next generation of diverse, qualified, and motivated public health servants. Over the past five years, the program has hired over 100 student interns.

Five Black Scholars Selected for New Faculty Positions

The five Black scholars who aer taking on new roles are Khadene Harris at Rice University in Houston, Nakia Melecio at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Bettina Drake at Washington University in St. Louis, Arlette Ngoubene Atioky at Goucher College in Maryland, and Kandi Hill-Clarke at the University of Memphis.

Getty Images to Preserve Digital Photo Archives at Delaware State University

Currently, Delaware State University's photo archives contain thousands of photographs taken over the course of the university's 133 year history. Thanks to a new partnership with Getty Images, those images will be digitized and made available on

Porché Spence Recognized for Outstanding Commitment to Advancing Diversity in Ecology

Dr. Spence currently serves as an assistant professor of environmental studies at North Carolina A&T State University. Throughout her career, she has developed several educational programs geared towards introducing students of color to environmental science fields.

Featured Jobs