First African American to Graduate Yale College

 Edward Alexander Bouchet was the first African American to graduate from Yale college in 1874 and then became the first African American to receive a PhD from an American University in 1876. He was also a student at Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven, one of the oldest still around.


Edward Alexander Bouchet was born on September 15, 1852 in New Haven.  Edward attended the segregated primary school in New Haven and later finished his secondary education at Hopkins Grammar School in 1870. Edward’s academic accomplishments included serving as the valedictorian of his high school class. In addition to holding the position of deacon in the church, William Francis Bouchet was also employed at Yale College as a janitor. 
When he was admitted to Yale in 1870, Edward Bouchet became the first to break the “color line” at Yale College. Bouchet took courses in German, French, Greek and Latin. His main interests were in the sciences and mathematics. Bouchet took classes in mechanics, physics, and astronomy and received summa cum laude honors in all of his undergraduate studies upon graduation in 1874, sixth in his class.
Bouchet entered graduate school at Yale and gained his doctorate in physics in just two years. Bouchet became one of only six people in the country with doctorates in physics. Despite his credentials and academic accomplishments, racism was a roadblock to a career as a research scientist. Bouchet spent most of his career teaching and administrating segregated African American schools. After a long term illness, Bouchet died in 1918.
Ronald E. Mickens, “Bouchet and Imes: First Black Physicists” in Ronald E. Mickens, ed., The African American Presence in Physics (Atlanta, 1999), pp. 20-24;Garry L. Reeder, “The History of Blacks at Yale University” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 26. (Winter, 1999-2000) pp. 125-126; “Yale Pays Tribute to Its First Black Graduate,” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 22. (Winter, 1998-1999), pp. 63-64.


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