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Michigan State University

African Americans at MSU Archives & Historical Collections: MSU Notables

MSU Notables

Below are notable MSU African American students, professors, and board of trustee members. Under each name are different archival collections, digital records, and/or other resources where you can find more information about that person.

William O. ThompsonFirst African American to graduate from M.A.C. in 1904.

  • Michigan Agricultural College: The Evolution of a Land-Grant Philosophy, 1855-1925, “Chapter 7: African-American Students”, pgs. 345-346, Widder, Keith, 2005. Michigan State University Press: East Lansing, Michigan.
  • People Photograph Collection. People. Thompson, William.

Myrtle Craig MowbrayFirst African American woman to graduate from M.A.C. in 1907.

  • MSU Information Files. People. Mowbray, Myrtle Craig. 
  • People Photograph Collection. People. Mowbray, Myrtle Craig
  • UA 6.1 Admissions and Scholarships records - Myrtle Craig Mowbray Scholars Program, undated - Box 5603/Folder 7
  • 00209 Michigan Women’s Studies Association records - Betty MacDowell Resource Files for Publication: Michigan Women: First & Founders, 1973-1995. Mowbray, Myrtle Craig. - Box 6/Folder 130
  • See UA 2.1.7 Jonathan LeMoyne Snyder papers
  • MSU Alumni Magazine, “Myrtle Mowbray, ‘07: MSU’s first Black graduate, remembers M.A.C.,” November 1972

Gideon Smith – The first African American to be on the M.A.C. football team in 1913.

  • UA 17.239 Jack Heppinstall papers - 1915 Football Team 50th Anniversary, Box 2931H/Folder 1
  • People Photograph Collection. Smith, Gideon Edward.

David W. Dickson In 1948, he was appointed to the English department faculty at Michigan State, becoming the first African American faculty member at the university.

  • Faculty Bio Files. Dickson, David W. - Box 1518/Folder 107
  • People Photograph Collection. Dickson, David.
  • MSU Information Files. People. D. Miscellaneous. Dickson, David W. D.
  • UA 10.2 Alumni Association records. Department of Alumni Relations. Biographical Files. Dickson, David W., 1958. - Box 435/Folder 6

William Harrison PipesHe was the first African American in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in speech and the first to be granted full professorship at MSU.

  • UA 17.55 Theodore R. Kennedy papers - Brief Biographical Sketches of Deceased and Retired Faculty, Department of American Thought and Language by Theodore R. Kennedy, 1992 - Box 5740/Folder 10
  • MSU Information Files. People. P. Miscellaneous. Pipes, William Harrison.
  • People Photograph Collection. People. Pipes, William Harrison.
  • Faculty Bio Files. Pipes, William H. - Box 1539/Folder 143

Ernest Green – One of the Little Rock Nine, he was awarded a scholarship to attend MSU by an anonymous donor. (The anonymous donor was MSU President John Hannah.) Green graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1962 and a Master’s Degree in Sociology in 1964.  

  • Ebony magazine with article about Ernest Green as a student at MSU, May 1961. UA 26.3 MSU Unattributed History collection - Box 5416
  • MSU Information Files. People. G. Miscellaneous 
  • Green awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws - Spring Convocation, 1994.
  • NAACP members picket S.S. Kresge department store in East Lansing, 1960. Reel 1 and 2
  • Media Communications. Subject Files. Alumni. Green, Ernest. October 7, 1992-January 23, 2000. - Box 1770/Folder 21 
  • Media Communications. Commencement Address. Address by Green, Spring 1994. - Box 5576/Folder 81

Blanche Martin – First African American MSU Board of Trustee Member. Elected in 1969.

  • Faculty Bio File. Martin, Blanche. - Box 2703/Folder 26
  • MSU Information Files. People. Martin, Blanche.
  • People Photograph Collection. People. Martin, Blanche.
  • UA Sesquicentennial Oral History Project records - Blanche Martin, March 31, 2000 - Transcript, Oral History Recording Parts 1, 2, and 3.     

Robert L. Green – While a Professor of Educational Psychology at MSU in 1968, Green was named the director of the Center for Urban Affairs. He became the Dean of the College of Urban Development when it was created in 1972, the first Black dean at MSU. 

Earvin “Magic” JohnsonClass of 1979, led the men’s basketball team to its first NCAA championship in 1979.

  • MSU Retrospect publication (UA 12.7.47), 1 folder, 1978, F.D./Folder 1
  • MSU Information Files. People. Johnson, Earvin “Magic” (2 folders)
  • Photos, basketball games, and press conferences featuring Magic can be found here, On the Banks of the Red Cedar. In the search box, type Magic Johnson.