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Black Firsts at James Madison University: A Timeline

This timeline of known Black firsts at James Madison University is a living archive and work in progress. We welcome and invite any additions and notes that enhance this collective project; it is the story of all of us. Please send any edits or corrections to Jeremiah Spencer (

This project was originally created by undergraduate students Zaria Heyward (2020) and Qyaira Colbert (2020) for the Fall 2019 course "Black Studies and Black Spaces" under the African, African American, and Diaspora Studies minor (AAAD) and taken up by graduate student Megan Medeiros (2021), Graduate Assistant at The Cohen Center for the Humanities under the editorial oversight of Dr. Mollie Godfrey, Dr. Besi Muhonja, Dr. Mary Beth Cancienne, and Dr. Dolores Flamiano.

This timeline is dedicated to the firsts who paved the way for many Black and minority students to have courses, jobs, and a voice. We'd like to offer special thanks for all the help and contributions offered to the project by JMU Special Collections, The Breeze, Tiffany Cole, Mr. Art Dean, Vanessa Evans-Grevious, Dr. Joanne Gabbin, Deborah Thompkins Johnson, Karen Risch Mott, Dr. Meg Mulrooney, Dr. David Owusu-Ansah, Jim Rankin, Saranna Rankin, Mayor Deanna Reed, Dr. Steven Reich, Faye Wilson Tate, and Carrolet Taylor.

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