The Rhodes Scholarship and African America

Fri, 1902-11-21

*The Rhodes scholarship is celebrated on this date in 1902. It is one of the most prestigious and oldest international fellowship programs for graduates and prolific intellectuals in the world. Created and named after South African mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes, the program brings together more than 80 scholars each year from South Africa, Australia, Canada, Botswana, India, Kenya, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Germany, Jamaica, and the United States, from which 32 scholars are chosen. Scholars are awarded scholarships worth $50,000 each for two years of study at Oxford University.

Alain Locke was the first African American to win a Rhodes scholarship in 1907, igniting a legacy of excellence that African American students would proudly carry on over the next century. In fact, over the past four decades, Black Americans have won a Rhodes scholarship almost each year. That’s a very interesting in light of the fact that Rhodes was known to be a “brutal racist.” Here is a list of America’s most gifted Black writers, educators, future doctors and change-makers that have utilized this scholarship to raise the bar of African-American academic success:
*John Edgar Wideman (1963) Wideman was the second African American in history to be named a Rhodes scholar. Since graduating from Oxford University in 1966, he has written 20 books. Currently, Wideman is Asa Messer Professor and Professor of Africana Studies and English at Brown University.
*Robin S. Hadley (1984). She became the first African American female from the South and the third African-American female ever to receive the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.
*Susan Rice (1986). She serves as President Obama’s close adviser and the first African American woman U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The early stages of her prestigious career consist of earning a master’s and doctorate in philosophy from Oxford.
*Nenna Lynch (1992). She earned a master’s degree in social anthropology. She was also a collegiate athlete winning the NCAA 3,000 meter event in the 1992-1993 seasons. People Magazine as one of the 50 most beautiful people honored the former investment banker in 1994. Today, Lynch is a a senior policy adviser to the deputy mayor for economic development, in New York City.
*Cory Booker (1992). The popular mayor of Newark not only has an impressive political resume, but he has an even more impressive academic history. After graduating from Stanford University with a bachelor’s in political science and a master’s degree in sociology, Booker earned a bachelor’s in modern history at Oxford in 1994 as a Rhodes Scholar. He continued his education at Yale Law School and graduated with a degree in 1997.
*Randal Pinkett (1994). Before he became the first African American to win season 4 of The Apprentice TV show, Pinkett was the first and only African-American from his alma mater, Rutgers University, to receive a Rhodes Scholarship. He earned a Master of Science degree in computer science from the University of Oxford in 1994. He earned another master’s of science in electrical engineering, MBA and Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Currently, Pinkett is the president and CEO of BCT Partners, a multimillion-dollar consulting firm based in Newark, NJ, that specializes in program management, information technology and public policy.
*Carla Peterman (1998). This Oakland native and Howard University alum became the first African American female from an HBCU to earn the prestigious honor of Rhodes Scholar. At Oxford, she earned her MBA. Peterman went on to become a stellar researcher at the University of California Energy Institute at Haas and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She has co-authored a series of publications on cost and deployment trends in the U.S. solar photovoltaic market. Most recently, Peterman was appointed to the California Energy Commission.
*Rachel Mazyck (2005). She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina when she was only 19 years old in 2002. Before becoming a Rhodes Scholar, Mazyck attended Harvard Graduate School of Education and earned a master’s degree in education policy and management. She has since written about and explored ways to close the achievement gap in American education.
*Garrett Johnson (2006). Garrett Johnson proves that talented athletes can also be exceptional students. In 2005, he became the Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholar at his alma mater, Florida State University, where he was one of the NCAA’s elite shot putters and graduated magna cum laude in three years with a double major in political science and English. He became a Rhodes Scholar and earned a master’s degree in migration studies. Most recently, Johnson served as a staffer on the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
*Myron Rolle (2008). Rolle was a starting free safety on Florida State’s football team who was training for the NFL’s draft day when he decided to go a different route. That alternative route consisted of being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship where he enrolled in a master’s degree program in medical anthropology. After Rhodes, the Tennessee Titans drafted him. Eventually, he wants to become a neurosurgeon and continue fulfilling his philanthropic duties as head of the Myron L. Rolle Foundation.
*Ugwechi Amadi (2010). This North Carolina native is pursuing a master’s of science in psychological research at Oxford. Being a Black woman in the field of math and science she understands the need for more women of color and for that reason; she has served as a mentor to middle school girls through MIT’s Science Technology & math program (STEM). One day, the exceptionally gifted academic hopes to become a neurologist.
*Darryl W. Finkton (2010). When his school magazine at Harvard University interviewed Finkton shortly after earning a Rhodes Scholarship, he was asked about his life’s ambition. He said, “my life goal is to remove income as one of the factors of life expectancy.” Finkton is on the road to doing just that. As a freshman, the Indianapolis native co-founded a sustainable-water-delivery system for a community in Ghana. At Harvard, he studied neurobiology with a secondary concentration in African and African American studies. As a Rhodes Scholar, he is pursuing a master of science in global health, and also wants to earn his M.B.A.
Esther Uduehi (2010). When Uduehi’s parents moved to the U.S. from Nigeria, they intended to pursue a better life, which included academics. Uduehi has fully embraced this ambition, having chosen to attend Oxford University next October under the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship Program. As of now, Uduehi, is on schedule to graduate from Indiana University with a dual degree in biochemistry and mathematics. She is also the co- founder of the IU Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS). Uduehi intends to pursue a career in medicinal chemistry research.
*Fagan Harris (2011). A native of Glen Burnie, Md, Harris is in the process of completing a master’s degree in human rights in criminal justice at the University of Limerick in Ireland as a Mitchell Scholar. He plans to pursue a doctorate of philosophy in education at Oxford. Harris is also currently working for an Irish government program that aims to improve the quality of life for residents in two neighborhoods in Limerick City, a community that has endured a legacy of serious social problems and high-profile criminal activities.
*Brandon E. Turner (2012). Turner was a senior biophysics major at Wake Forest University when he gained entry to the select Rhodes Scholar circle. His internationally coveted prize is two years of study at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
2014: *Robert A. Fisher is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is majoring in political science with minors in history and Africana studies. He previously won a Truman Scholarship. Fisher is the student body president at the university and has a perfect academic record. Fisher will study for a master’s degree in comparative social policy at Oxford. *Rachel V. Harmon is from Champaign, Ill. She is a senior at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y, where she is majoring in industrial and labor relations. Before starting her college career, Harmon was an AmeriCorps volunteer at a rural elementary school in the Mississippi Delta. She plans to study for a master’s degree in evidence-based social policy at Oxford. *Ridwan Y. Hassen is a senior at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. He is majoring in computer science with an emphasis on neuroscience. He began his college career at Emory University and transferred to Dartmouth after two years. He is the son of refugees from Somalia and Ethiopia. At Dartmouth, he is a member of the Endurance Racing Team. Hassen is planning to pursue a master’s degree in public policy at Oxford.
*Tayo A. Sanders II is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he is majoring in materials science. Sanders previously won a Goldwater Scholarship. He has conducted research in the nanomaterials laboratory at the University of Strasbourg in France. Sanders is a triathlete. At Oxford, Sanders plans to earn a Ph.D. in materials science. *Sarah E. Yerima is a senior at Princeton University in New Jersey. She is majoring in sociology. During the summer of 2013, Yerima completed an intensive program in Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro. She will enroll in a two-year master’s degree program in politics at Oxford. After studying at Oxford, Yerima plans to enter a joint J.D./Ph.D. program and hopes to become a professor of law.
*Cameron D. Clarke is a senior at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He is the fourth Howard student to win a Rhodes Scholarship. Clarke is majoring in community health education and biology. He is the news editor of the student newspaper at Howard and serves as an intern for the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology at the U.S. House of Representatives. Clarke plans to study for a master’s degree in primary health care at Oxford.
*Aryn A. Frazier is a senior at the University of Virginia, where she is double majoring in politics and African American and African studies. Frazier is president of the Black Student Alliance at the university. Frazier, a resident of Laurel, Maryland, plans to study for a master’s degree in comparative politics at Oxford.
*Christian E. Nattiel from Madeira Beach, Florida, is a senior at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. At West Point, Nattiel is double-majoring in mathematical sciences and philosophy and is a member of the academy’s handball team. At Oxford, Nattiel will study for master’s degrees in comparative social policy and public policy.
*Olivia A. Klevorn is a senior at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. A native of Chicago, Klevorn is majoring in anthropology. At Yale, Klevorn is the director of the Heritage Theatre Ensemble and president of a student-run poetry association. She will study for a Ph.D. in socio-legal studies at Oxford.
*Aaron C. Robertson of Redford, Michigan, is a senior at Princeton University in New Jersey. He is majoring in Italian and focuses his research on Afro-Italian literature. At Princeton, he is the co-editor-in-chief of the Nassau Literary Review. Robertson plans to pursue a master’s degree in modern languages at Oxford.
*Ahmed M. Ahmed is a biology major at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He is a resident of Rochester, Minnesota. His research is focused on the development of new synthetic strategies for producing polymers. He is the son of immigrants from Somalia. Ahmed will study for a master’s degree in organic and medical chemistry at Oxford.
*Caylin L. Moore is a member of the football team at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. A resident of Carson, California, Moore is majoring in economics at TCU. He was raised in poverty and was homeless. His father was convicted to a life sentence for murder. Moore is the founder of an organization of student athletes who encourage children from disadvantaged groups to attend college. He will study public policy as a Rhodes Scholar.

African American Game Changers