WMU’s first Black graduate honored by DAR

Dr. Merze Tate, a trailblazing woman.

Dr. Merze Tate, the first Black graduate of Western Michigan Teachers College, has been described as a trailblazing teacher, journalist, author, inventor and advisor to world leaders. In 2021, the college’s descendant, Western Michigan University, renamed a college in her honor.

The Kalamazoo-area chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) entered Tate into a DAR database of prominent women in American history at a March 13 awards meeting held at the Schoolcraft Ladies Library Association.

The DAR’s Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Chapter “has a history of recognizing and fostering strong women,” said chapter Regent Elizabeth Kraatz. “It seemed fitting that we should draw attention to the contribution of Dr. Merze Tate.” Tate, born in 1905, died in Washington D.C. in 1996.

“She was a dynamic trailblazer who bravely defied systemic injustices, challenged cultural expectations, and found ways to overcome barriers as she forged her own path toward success” according to Jessica Johnson, the chapter’s chair of American History.

“She shared her knowledge and used her connections to uplift others, help them discover their potential, and amplify their voices,” Kraatz said. “She was the first Black woman to attend the University of Oxford, the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Government and International relations from Harvard University (then Radcliffe College), as well as one of the first two female members to join the Department of History at Howard University. Tate served as a Fulbright Scholar in India from 1950 to 1951.”

“March is Women’s History month, which makes the timing of this recognition particularly well suited,” said Vice Regent Nancy Colburn.

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