University of Michigan’s first African American student
Samuel Codes Watson was the first African American student admitted to the University of Michigan. Born in South Carolina in 1832, Watson was mixed race and passed for white while attending Michigan. In 1857, he became one of the first African Americans to receive an M.D. from Cleveland Medical College. He later became Detroit’s first elected African American city official.
University of Michigan’s first female African American student
Mary Henrietta Graham was the first African American woman admitted to the University of Michigan.
Moses “Fleetwood” Walker becomes first African American baseball player at the University of Michigan
Walker became a businessman, inventor, newspaper editor, and author after leaving Michigan in 1883 to join a professional baseball team in Toledo before graduating. He became the first African American major leaguer when that Toledo team joined the American Association.
George Jewett becomes first African American football player in the Big Ten
Jewett was an American athlete who became the first African American football player at both the University of Michigan and Northwestern University, and in the Big Ten Conference. At Michigan, he was the leading rusher, scorer and kicker. Jewett was regarded as “one of the greatest stars” in Michigan football in the pre-Fielding Yost era. In addition to playing fullback and halfback, Jewett was also the team’s placekicker and has been called “the Afro-American phenomenon of the University of Michigan.”
First African American to win an individual gold medal in the Olympics
In 1924, William DeHart Hubbard became the first African American to win an individual Olympic gold medal. During his senior year at Michigan (1925) Hubbard set the world record in the long jump. While the football coach, Fielding Yost, had barred African American players from football since 1901, in 1921, then Athletic Director Yost allowed one African American to join the track team. Hubbard was the only African American track team member during his four years at U-M.
Gerald Ford protests playing in segregated game
Before presidency was on his mind, a young Ford playing football at Michigan threatened to quit the team and refused to play in a game against Georgia Tech, because the Yellow Jackets demanded an African American athlete, Willis Ward, not be permitted to make the trip. Ford only ended up playing after Ward asked him to.
Jackie Robinson becomes the first Black player in Major League Baseball
“I am not concerned with your liking or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being,” says Robinson, who breaks the MLB color barrier when he takes the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers after executive Branch Rickey signs him to a historic contract. Robinson wins the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, and two years he later he’s honored as the league’s Most Valuable Player. Robinson helps the Dodgers win six National League pennants and the 1955 World Series title. In 1962, Robinson becomes a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
University of Michigan’s first non-white Senior Class President
Orval Wardell Johnson was the first non-white student to be elected as Senior Class President of the College of Literature, Science, and Art. His opponent was Pete R. Elliott, a popular white football player. The final voting margin was 2 to 1. While at U-M, Johnson enrolled in Latin-American studies because he believed that “colored college students should prepare themselves to invade new fields.”
University of Michigan’s Lesbian-Gay Male Programs Office Founded
Jim Toy, the son of a Chinese father and Scottish-Irish mother, achieved distinction as a longtime advocate for LGBTQ persons. In 1971, he co-founded the University’s Lesbian-Gay Male Programs Office, now known as the Spectrum Center. This achievement was monumental in that it was officially the first staff office for LGTBQ students in a United States institution of higher learning.
University of Michigan hires first African American athletic director
Tom Goss became the first African American athletic director of the University of Michigan. During his short tenure, Goss led Michigan to national titles in football, ice hockey and men’s gymnastics.
Michigan Athletics wins first women’s national title
The Michigan field hockey team wins its first NCAA team championship in a women’s sport.
Mary Sue Coleman becomes Michigan’s first female president
Coleman became U-M’s first female president after serving seven years as president of the University of Iowa. She led U-M during the worst economic downturn since the Depression with new faculty hires, greater interdisciplinary teaching and research, a vibrant entrepreneurial culture, major building projects, and the $3.2 billion Michigan Difference campaign. A strong advocate of diversity, she launched academic partnerships on three continents. She retired after 12 years as president in 2014.
University of Michigan’s Brienne Minor becomes first African-American woman to claim the NCAA singles title
Minor (2016-19) became the first African-American woman to claim the NCAA tennis singles title, winning as a sophomore in 2017. She earned four All-America citations, the most by a Wolverine, and ranks seventh in program history with 110 singles victories. She was also the 2016-17 Michigan Female Athlete of the Year.