Skip to main content

IU’s Black History Makers

Illustrations by Brittany Olson

Indiana University was founded in 1820, but it would be more than 60 years before Harvey Young, the first African American student, stepped foot on the Bloomington campus. Young would pave the way for the first Black athlete, and eventually, the first Black graduate. However, these triumphs and the many celebrated “firsts” that followed, took place amid extreme racial tension and discrimination. You’ll see that play out in the stories below—many of which were found in the IU Alumni Magazine archives.

Illustration of Preston Eagleson
Illustration by Brittany Olson


Preston Eagleson, BA 1896, MA 1906, became the first African American to participate in intercollegiate athletics at Indiana University. According to local newspapers, Eagleson, who played football for three seasons, was a “standout on the field” despite the racial prejudice he faced. He would later become the first Black student to graduate from IU with an advanced degree—a master of arts in philosophy.

Discover the hurdles Eagleson overcame in the story IU Football, Preston E. Eagleson, and the 1885 Civil Rights Act.

Illustration of Marcellus Neal
Illustration by Brittany Olson


Marcellus Neal, BA 1895, was the first Black student to graduate from Indiana University. He was on campus at the same time as Preston Eagleson, and it’s likely the two were acquainted, but according to the 1895 Arbutus, Neal spent much of his free time with the Married Folks’ Club.

Neal’s historic graduation almost didn’t take place. Find out why in Eye on the Prize.

Illustraton of J.B. Stradford
Illustration by Esther Stimphat


J.B. Stradford, JD 1900, was the first Black graduate of the IUPUI Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He went on to become a founding member of “Black Wall Street,” a section of Tulsa, Okla., where he opened a hotel and owned large tracts of land.

Find out how he survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in the story McKinney Law Alumnus J.B. Stradford was Prominent on Black Wall Street.

Illustration of Elder Watson Diggs
Illustration by Esther Stimphat


Elder Watson Diggs, BA 1916, was the first Black graduate of the IU School of Education. He was also the founder of Kappa Alpha Psi—the first Black fraternity at IU and one of the few fraternities in the Divine Nine to have been started at a predominantly white institution.

Discover how Diggs is remembered today on the IU Bloomington campus in Father Kappa.

Illustration of Frances Marshall Eagleson
Illustration by Esther Stimphat


Frances Marshall Eagleson, BA 1919, was the first Black woman to graduate from Indiana University. Because of this accomplishment, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center was named in honor of her and Marcellus Neal in 2002.

Frances, the daughter-in-law of Preston Eagleson, went on to become a sought-after registrar. Read about her career—and her nearly photographic memory—in
A Phenomenal Woman.

Illustration of Bill Garrett
Illustration by Brittany Olson


Bill Garrett, BS’51, was the first Black basketball player to land a spot on the Hoosiers’ roster and regularly play in the Big Ten conference. In June 2020, the intramural center on the IU Bloomington campus was renamed in his honor.

Find out how the basketball star scored a scholarship to IU in Bill Garrett Makes History—Again.

Illustration of George Taliaferro
Illustration by Brittany Olson

Also in 1949, George Taliaferro, BS’51—well remembered for his role in the desegregation of Bloomington, Ind.—was the first Black player drafted into the NFL. He was originally picked up by the Chicago Bears, but a prior contract with the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference prevented him from playing. He would later begin his NFL career with the New York Yanks.

Catch a glimpse of the football standout’s statue outside Memorial Stadium in
The Great George Taliaferro.

Illustration of Milton Campbell Sr.
Illustration by Esther Stimphat


Milton “Milt” G. Campbell Sr., ’57, was the first African American to win Olympic gold in the decathlon. Campbell was a senior in high school when he won his first Olympic medal, the silver in the decathlon at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki. At the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, Campbell earned the gold medal.

At IU, he was an NCAA champion in the high hurdles and a standout for the football team. Find out which NFL team drafted Campbell in Olympic Gold Medalist: Milton Campbell.

Illustration of Nancy Streets-Lyons
Illustration by Esther Stimphat


Nancy Streets-Lyons, BA’62, was the first Black student to be crowned Miss Indiana University. In 2013, she returned to IU Bloomington for the first time in more than 50 years. The hours she spent on campus were documented by Charles Scudder, BAJ’14, a former Indiana Daily Student reporter.

Read the award-winning story, A Queen Comes Home.

Illustration of Thomas Atkins
Illustration by Brittany Olson


Just a year after Nancy Streets-Lyons made headlines across the country, Thomas Atkins, BA’61, was elected the first Black student body president of IU and a Big Ten university. His legacy lives on through the Thomas I. Atkins Living-Learning Center, located in the Forest Quadrangle Residence Hall on the IU Bloomington campus.

See Atkins’s campaign poster and learn about his triumphs in office in
Doing the Undoable.

Illustration of Richard Hatcher
Illustration by Brittany Olson


Richard Hatcher, BS’56, was elected mayor of Gary, Ind., in 1967—joining Carl Stokes, of Cleveland, as the first Black mayors of major U.S. cities. Before, during, and after his time in office, he fought for social equality as an active member—and eventual leader—of the NAACP.

Read what Rev. Jesse Jackson had to say about Hatcher in Foundational Politician.

Illustration of Juanita Kidd Stout
Illustration by Brittany Olson


Juanita Kidd Stout, JD’48, LLM’54, LLD’66, made her mark on history by becoming the first Black woman in the country to serve as a state supreme court justice. In 2019, more than 30 years after her death, she became the first African American woman with a professorship named in her honor at Indiana University.

Discover Stout’s demeanor behind the bench in Legal Legacy.

Written By

Samantha Stutsman

Samantha Stutsman, BAJ'14, is a Bloomington, Ind., native and a senior content specialist at the IU Alumni Association.

Related stories

Two-Time IU Alumna Jennifer Root Named to Growing Michigan Together Council

In 2023, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed Jennifer Root to the Growing Michigan Together Council. The council will advise Whitmer on specific policies to grow Michigan’s population and enhance K-12 and higher education.

graphic of three students sitting at desks

Finals Week Chronicles

From a massive snowball fight to a mid-exam evacuation to a “victory cigar,” these stories truly capture the uniqueness of finals week at IU.

Elder Watson Diggs: ‘The Dreamer’

In 1916, Elder Watson Diggs, founder of Kappa Alpha Psi, became the first Black graduate of the IU School of Education.

Stephen Hofer standing in front of the Indiana Memorial Union

Alum Stephen Hofer: More than an ‘Aviation Attorney to the Stars’

Game show contestant. Genealogical curator of Dunn Cemetery. Aviation attorney. Stephen Hofer, BA'76, walks readers through his life.