Never officially recognized during her lifetime, the first African American woman to graduate from the university will be posthumously honored this spring
Journalism may be the first draft of history, but journalism can spawn the best draft of history. History overlooked Lucile Berkeley Buchanan, the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Colorado, but journalism has brought her back into view.
Tipped off by a newspaper story, Polly McLean, a CU Boulder associate professor of Media Studies, spent more than a decade exhuming Buchanan’s story and, finally, correcting history. For decades, the university’s official history erroneously stated that the first black woman to graduate from CU earned her degree in 1924.
In fact, however, the first black woman to graduate from CU did so in 1918.
Now, a century after Buchanan’s alma mater barred her from walking across the Macky Auditorium stage to accept her degree, Buchanan is being more fully recognized.
The first African American woman to graduate will be honored because of McLean, the first black woman to earn tenure at CU Boulder and the first black woman to head an academic unit.