Michigan's Merze Tate was civil rights champion, education pioneer

Jun 22, 2016

Sonya Bernard Hollins
Credit http://www.michiganhistorylectures.com/

Merze Tate was the first African-American graduate of Western Michigan Teachers College and the first African-American woman to attend the University of Oxford. We speak with  Sonya Bernard Hollins, one of today’s leading experts on the life of Merze Tate.


This week marks the 75th anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Executive Order 8802. The ruling was designed to prohibit racial discrimination in the national defense industry as the U.S. faced imminent war.

Equal opportunity achievement in the period leading into World War Two was exemplified by Blanchard, Michigan native Merze Tate. By any measure, she was a trail blazer not only in Michigan but across the U.S. and internationally.

Merze Tate was the first African-American graduate of Western Michigan Teachers College and the first African-American woman to attend the University of Oxford. Tate was also the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in government and international relations from Harvard University.

Fellow Western Michigan University alumna Sonya Bernard Hollins is one of today’s leading experts on the life of Merze Tate. Hollins’ article "Merze Tate: Citizen of the World" was featured in Michigan History Magazine. She talks with Current State's Peter Whorf.