Lafayette University Honors the First Slave to Earn a College Degree
On September 27, 2008, Lafayette University dedicated a statue to the memory of David McDonogh. McDonogh was not only the College’s first Black graduate, but also the first enslaved Black person known to have earned a college degree. The 16 foot statue, made from 4 tons of steel, is called “Transcendence.”
David McDonogh was sent to Lafayette by his master, John McDonogh. A Louisiana Rice Planter, John McDonogh was a strong supporter of the movement to send freed slaves to Liberia.
After completing his bachelor’s degree in 1844, David McDonogh was committed to pursuing further education. He and his master severed their relationship when it became clear that McDonogh had no intentions of moving to Liberia. His dream was to complete his education and work as a physician in the U.S. David McDonogh eventually completed his medical studies at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.
McDonogh would go onto have a long and successful career as a physician, serving Black and white patients for over 40 years. Later in his life he added a u to his last name, presumably to further distance himself from his early life in bondage. He died in January of 1893. In 1898 McDonogh Memorial Hospital was opened in his honor. Located in Harlem, the hospital was committed to serving all patients, regardless of race.
For fascinating account of David McDonogh’s life, click THIS LINK.
David McDonogh’s 12 foot high tombstone. He was buried in New York’s historic Woodlawn Cemetery. The prominent location of his grave and marker, behind the main building of the cemetery, is a reflection of his high status within the greater New York area.
Posted by Ajuan Mance