Black History Month: Wittenberg’s First Black Student

Broadwell Chinn made history as the first black student to apply for admittance at Wittenberg University.

In September 1874, Chinn applied to Wittenberg. However, the faculty was sensitive in mixing the races together, therefore hesitating to admit him into the university. The students were asked for their opinion, and a majority had opposed his admission.

Later, the faculty denied his application, citing a lack of authority to admit him. The faculty was criticized for its actions. In 1875, the board had a meeting regarding Chinn’s admittance.

The response was direct, according to “Wittenberg: An American College.” The board said, “The constitution clearly opens the door of the college to all persons of proper qualifications irrespective of color.”

After, the board declared that the faculty must admit Chinn to college, and he was finally enrolled in the fall of 1875. Chinn grew up in Springfield, and this wasn’t his first time being denied from a school. He had been banned from a local high school he went to and was given his college preparatory work on the side by the high school principal.

Chinn was born a slave in Lexington, Kent., in 1853 and his father, William Chinn, purchased him.

Now, Wittenberg University has a scholarship named after Chinn. The award is for students who recognize diversity among students who exemplify a certain grade point average.

“His success has allowed me to come to Wittenberg and become as equally educated and as successful as he was,” O’jeanique Washington, ‘17, said. “His scholarship has allowed me to do that, and I’m very grateful.”

Victoria Ladipo, ’19, expressed how without Chinn, we wouldn’t have the diverse organizations we have now.

“Without Broadwell Chinn, there will be no Shades of Pearls, no Concerned Black Students and no diversity on our campus,” Ladipo said.

Chinn’s legacy still lives on throughout Wittenberg’s campus.

 

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