Notable Black Alumnae at DU

In 2017, DU professor Katherine Crowe ushered in this idea of remembering DU’s omitted Black alumnae by constructing a comprehensive study of the famous Black women who attended the university starting at 1900 and ending around 1945. Through studying yearbooks, archives, and the historical black Denver newspaper, “The Colorado Statesman,” Crowe and her associates sought to trace these women and their stories. The project eventually culminated in the 2018 Anderson Academic Commons exhibition entitled, “Seeking Grace.” Crowe worked on the exhibit with DU’s Sistah Network, a group of DU Black women graduate students working to support African American females at the university. 

*Please note that this page will grow and evolve as we continue to locate the archives of our past Black alumni and alumnae. 

Grace Mabel Andrews

The title of the exhibit serves as a nod to the first black woman to receive a four-year bachelor’s degree from DU, Grace Mabel Andrews. Graduated in 1908, Andrews made history and blazed a path for black women and men to seek out a college education at the predominately white DU. Andrews majored in Latin with minors in French and economics and eventually went on to teach in Tulsa and Kansas City.The Colorado Statesman documented her historic graduation in Denver, writing, “Miss Mable [sic] Andrews received the degree of B.A. from Denver University, Wednesday night. She is the first Colored girl of our city to receive this degree. We are very proud of Miss Andrews and feel that the honor conferred upon her reflects credit upon all of our people in Denver.”

“Seeking Grace” also outlined the lives of countless other Black women to make history at DU. Though the exhibit is not on display anymore, the report from Crowe can still be found online

Since 1945, a number of other groundbreaking Black alumni have made history at DU. Condoleezza “Condi” Rice, a bachelor’s and PhD degree recipient from DU, served as the 66th Secretary of State from 2005-2009 under President George W. Bush. Rice transcended United States history as the first ever black female Secretary of State and second African American secretary ever since Colin Powell. 

During her time at DU, Rice initially enrolled as a music major until her passion for international studies sparked when she took a class from Josef Korbel, whom the school of international studies at DU is now named after. Korbel, the father of Madeline Albright – the only female Secretary of State, predecessor to Rice – was a major inspiration for Rice in her time at DU. 

Condoleezza Rice Graduation

Condoleezza Rice graduating from DU at 19 years old. Photo courtesy of Humphrey Fellows at Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Also in government, DU graduate George Leslie Brown was a Tuskegee Airman, editor for the Denver Post and was one of the first black members of the Colorado House of Representatives. Throughout Brown’s illustrious and lengthy career, the politician and writer helped further the cause of African Americans in Colorado. 

After serving in the Air Force as a Tuskegee Airman, Brown pursued journalism and moved to Denver upon receiving a job at The Denver Post. Brown reshaped the journalism industry by becoming the first Black editor at a major Colorado newspaper, and he eventually went on to teach and do graduate work at DU. 

However, Brown arguably shook-up Colorado the most in politics. In 1956, he was elected to the Colorado Senate, making him the first Black citizen to be in this position. He then was elected to five consecutive state Senate terms. Continuing in politics, Brown also became Colorado’s first black lieutenant governor in 1974 of the 20th century.  

DU also hosted legendary comedian Sinbad, born David Atkins, from 1974-1978. Though he was not pursuing humor as a career during his time in Denver, Sinbad played for the DU basketball team and then served in the Air Force after graduating. After performing impromptu comedy routines in the military, Sinbad jumped into the entertainment industry, eventually accruing widespread fame through TV shows “A Different World” and “The Sinbad Show.” He also starred in popular movies like “Necessary Roughness,” “Jingle All the Way” and “Houseguest.” 

Though DU is known for its hockey, famous Broncos football players Reggie Rivers and Floyd Douglas Little also received higher education at the university. Rivers, a Broncos running back turned broadcaster and public speaker, received his master’s degree in Global Studies from DU. Broncos halfback Little also retired from football and graduated from DU law school with a legal administration degree. 

Grace Mabel Andrews

Highlighting some of the First Black Alumnae

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    Grace Mabel Andrews, 1908-1909

    Most histories of women of color at predominantly white institutions begin and end with “firsts.” Much is known about Emma Azalia Hackley (1900), but the story of Grace Mabel Andrews (AB, 1908), the second Black woman to graduate from the University of Denver (DU), is representative of the stories of many other Black women to graduate from DU during the first half of the twentieth century. She became a teacher, moving first to Tulsa, Oklahoma and then to Kansas City, Missouri. After 1932, project researchers have not been able to locate her in the historical record.

    Grace, and so many Black women like her, appear in glimpses: a commencement program, a yearbook photograph, an entry in a census record, a mention in a newspaper. Her own personal records - diaries, photographs, letters - are not found in any institutional archives. This exhibit’s title is deliberate; in seeking Grace’s history, we also seek a measure of representation and reconciliation for her, and for all who followed.

    Access the full Kynewisbok 1908 yearbook

Alice Elaine Brown Jenkins
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    Alice Elaine Brown Jenkins (1937)

    Alice Elaine Brown Jenkins was a DU alumnae, one of the first Disability Services Program (DSP) school teachers and was married to Howard Jenkins Jr., also a DU alum, along with both of his sisters. Alice and Howard's daughter, Judith Jr., was too an alumnae, graduating in the mid 1960s. 

    Howard, given his federal government leadership roles, is more well-known than his wife or his sisters, but the whole family was very civic-minded and community-oriented.

Anna Marion Jenkins
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    Anna Marion Jenkins (1932)

    Anna Marion Jenkins came from a family of DU scholars, alongside her sister, Doris Jeanette Jenkins and brother, Howard Jenkins Jr. 

Black Alumnae Yearbooks

*Please note that this page will grow and evolve as we continue to locate the archives of our past Black alumni and alumnae.

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Black Alumnae, 1900 - 1939

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Black Alumnae, 1940 - 1945

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Black Alumnae, 1946 - 1949

The DU Special Collections and Archives and the Sistah Network worked in collaboration on the “Seeking Grace” project to lift up Black womxn’s lived experiences and epistemologies, as to create a more just and equitable university.

Interview

Interviews with Alumnae

The University of Denver did not capture racial or ethnicity information on its students until the 1990s, which made the process for identifying early Black alumnae a challenge. Initially, the University Archives partnered with DU’s Sistah Network to identify students based on photographs present in the student yearbooks. We realized that assessment of racial and ethnic identity based solely on photographic evidence was flawed and problematic, and so decided to cross-reference our results with the decennial U.S. census, which gave us another source of evidence, but presented similar challenges.

In the summer of 2017, the Curator of Special Collections and Archives decided to review all issues of the Colorado Statesman from 1900-1945, Denver’s primary Black newspaper in search of community-identified alumnae. While time-consuming, this solved two methodological issues. First, it was a community-based source of information, meaning all identifications of race and ethnicity were made by the community members (or at least those on the Statesman editorial staff). Second, given community emphasis on education as a form of “racial uplift,” the Statesman’s coverage of Black students’ educational achievements in Denver, from high school graduation through college, was thorough and consistent.

Access the Alumnae Interviews

Doris Jeanette Jenkins

Highlighting some of the First Black Athletes

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    Doris Jeanette Jenkins (1930), Sophomore Basketball

    Doris Jeanette Jenkins came from a family of DU scholars, alongside her sister, Anna Marion Jenkins and brother, Howard Jenkins Jr. She was also a prominent DU Women's Basketball player. Below is an expert taken from a sports highlight regarding her team:

    "To the coed basketball players!

    Last year's championship team won two out of three games of the basketball tournament this season. They lost the first game to the Juniors and won the following two from the Freshmen and Seniors. 

    The final score by which they defeated the Freshmen was 22-21. This was the best played game of the year. 

    The whole squad showed unusual cooperation, and played excellently. Harriet Huckins, star forward, was the highest scoring player, making a total of 59 points. She also held the same honor last year. 

    Janice Waggener was the leader of her squad which was composed of: Harriet Huckins and Georgina Whitmore, forwards; Mildred Anderson, Dorothy Maguire and Lucia Young; guards Genevieve Davis, running center; and Janice Waggener, jumping center."