Alice Carlotta Jackson Stuart: First African American to Apply to a Virginia Graduate School

0 Posted by - December 23, 2020 - Black First, Black History, LATEST POSTS

Alice Carlotta Jackson Stuart received a bachelor’s degree in English from Virginia Union University in 1934, where she was a charter member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She then attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Stuart was born on June 2, 1913 in Richmond, Virginia to Dr. James Jackson and Clara Kersey. She was the oldest of three surviving children. Stuart was born to college educated parents who could afford to send her to college.

Stuart became the first African American on record in 1935 to apply to a Virginia graduate or professional school when she sought admission to the University of Virginia in order to pursue a master’s degree in French, a program not offered at any of the black colleges in the state. The University of Virginia’s board of visitors rejected her application, citing Virginia law that required black and white students to attend separate schools and “for other good and sufficient reasons” that the board refused to explain. After the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People threatened legal action, the Virginia General Assembly established a tuition supplement fund to compensate Stuart and other qualified African American students for the difference in cost to attend an out-of-state school. Until Gregory Swanson finally broke the color barrier at the University of Virginia Law School in 1950, the fund enabled thousands of Virginia African American students to continue their professional and graduate education.

Stuart used her tuition supplement to study at Columbia University in New York City, where she received a graduate degree in English and comparative literature. She taught for about fifty years at several black colleges, including Howard University, as well as in public schools. She retired in 1983 as a professor of English at Middlesex County College. Alice Jackson Houston Stuart died in 2001. In 2012 Jackson was posthumously honored as one of the Library of Virginia’s “Virginia Women in History” for her life’s work



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