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.
DeHart Hubbard first Black Olympic gold medalist
Hubbard becomes the first Black American athlete to earn an Olympic gold medal when he wins the men’s long jump at the 1924 Paris Olympics. In a meet in Chicago in June 1925, Hubbard set a long jump world record of 7.89 meters (25 feet, 10 ¾ inches), and a year later in Cincinnati, equaled the world record in the 100-yard dash (9.6 seconds). Hubbard worked for the Cincinnati Public Recreation Committee after graduating from the University of Michigan. In 1942, Hubbard moved to Cleveland where he became a race relations adviser for the Federal Housing Authority until his retirement in 1967.
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.
We are Penn State
In 1948, Penn State football played well enough to be selected to play in the Cotton Bowl against Southern Methodist University. During this time, the Cotton Bowl was a segregated game and Penn State had Wally Triplett, the first African American to earn a varsity letter at Penn State. When both schools scheduled meetings to make the decision to remove African American players from the team to play in the bowl game, team captain Steve Suhey shared his opposition of the meetings with the statement “We are Penn State. There will be no meetings.” Triplett was able to play and ended up scoring the game-tying touchdown.
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.
Nine Big Ten universities affiliate women’s athletic programs in the Conference
Nine Big Ten universities vote to affiliate their women’s athletic programs with the conference. In October of 1981, the initiative went conference wide when a 10th school began affiliating their women’s athletic programs with the conference. Earlier in the year, on May 4 , the Council of Ten endorsed the Task Force report that enables universities to affiliate their women’s intercollegiate programs with the conference if they so desire. The Council of Ten was formed on March 5, 1975, consisting of three women administrators in the athletic department, two men athletic directors and a faculty representative, and was formed to study women’s varsity intercollegiate athletics.
Wisconsin Women’s Cross Country brings home first women’s Big Ten Conference national title
The Wisconsin women’s cross country team completed the 1984 season with their first NCAA title, bringing home the first NCAA titel in a women’s sport for the Big Ten Conference.
The Big Ten Conference is the first to establish voluntary gender equity goals in athletics
The Council of Presidents/Chancellors of the Big Ten Conference announced its unanimous commitment to achieve a level of athletics participation that is 60 percent men and 40 percent women by 1997. Big Ten universities submitted strategies to achieve the 60-40 commitment and annual review procedures were established.
The Big Ten Conference was the first conference to voluntarily adopt participation goals for female student-athletes. The objective was Phase I of the Conference’s Gender Equity Action Plan (GEAP) for conference members to commit to a 60%/40% male-female participation ratio over a five-year period (1992-1997).
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.
Michigan State creates Diversity & Leadership Committee
Michigan State Athletics forms the Diversity & Leadership Committee, committed to informing student-athletes on social justices and equal opportunities.
Big Ten Voting Challenge
The Big Ten Voting Challenge is a nonpartisan initiative created to spur civic engagement and encourage more students across the Big Ten to vote on Election Day. When comparing voter turnout from the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections, turnout increased from 14 percent to 41 percent.
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.
Kevin Warren named commissioner of the Big Ten Conference
Kevin Warren is the sixth commissioner to hold the position and the first African American to be named commissioner at one of Division I’s five largest conferences.