In honor of Black History Month, we wanted to test your knowledge of the earliest students at Western Reserve College, founded in Hudson in 1826, by asking: Western Reserve College leaders admitted the school’s first black student, an acquaintance of abolitionist John Brown, in 1832. What was his name?
Each of the three men listed as answers in the trivia question were part of the early days of Western Reserve College, which would be renamed Western Reserve University when school leaders moved the institution to Cleveland in 1882. Western Reserve College was known for its abolitionist stance.
The first black student recorded as enrolled was John Sykes Fayette, who started attending Western Reserve College in 1832, graduated in 1836 and again in 1837 with a divinity degree, according to the Case Western Reserve University entry in the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. If you chose this answer, you were among the 41% of respondents who answered correctly.
About 44% of respondents incorrectly guessed Charles Backus Storrs, who actually was the college’s first president – and led the university when Fayette was admitted. Storrs fell ill and died after a long outdoor speech against slavery, according to an account in the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.
The remaining 14% of respondents incorrectly guessed the first black student at Western Reserve was Carroll Cutler. Cutler, who served as the college’s president after the Civil War, wasn’t the first black student, but does get credit for another first in Western Reserve College’s history: He was the first president to admit women.