This Black History Month, current and former Student Body Presidents of Harvard, MIT, and Wellesley are using their platforms to shed light on the achievements and sacrifices of the Black alumni at their respective universities. Danielle Geathers (MIT), Noah Harris (Harvard), and Tatiana Ivy Moise (Wellesley) made history in 2020 with their elections, marking the first time in history the three elite institutions had Black students leading their student governments at the same time. The three have joined together to write this following article.
As Black students elected to be Presidents of Harvard, MIT, and Wellesley, we’ve often been looked to as voices of both our student bodies and the Black community. Immediately upon our elections, we experienced outpours of local and even national praise, including features in CNN, People and USA Today. While we could not be more grateful for the overwhelming support, we must publicly acknowledge that our presidencies were neither the beginning nor end of Black achievement at our schools.
Photo Credit: Kofi Blake
We are only the recent bricks laid atop a wall that countless Black alumni, activists and community members began building long before we were ever born. We are only able to be seen from far and wide because we stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us.
From the first Black graduates to the alumni who created our Black student organizations, our forebears fought tirelessly to transform our predominantly white campuses from hotbeds of anti-Black racism to places capable of electing Black Student Body Presidents. Their work and achievements are integral parts of not only Harvard’s, MIT’s, and Wellesley’s history — but America’s history overall.
The emergence of Black students onto our three campuses took place in the late 1800s. Richard T. Greener, the first Black student to earn a degree from Harvard College, did poorly in school throughout his early life due to his mother’s illness and racist treatment. Nevertheless, he persisted in pursuing an education at several institutions before beginning his Harvard career…