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Mon, 02.06.1905

Merze Tate, Michigan Educator born

Merze Tate

*Merze Tate was born on this date in 1905. She was a Black teacher and administrator.

Vernie Merz Tate, daughter of Charles and Myrtle (Lett) Tate was born and grew up among the pine trees of Michigan in a frame house built from pine lumber.  She attended a grade school built of the same pine timber that stood near a grove of pine trees.  This began at age 5 in a one-room framed building located on a corner acre of her family's farm.  From Blanchard, MI she walked eight miles a day to attend Battle Creek H.S.

After Jim Crow Laws and other racial barriers kept her unemployed, Tate began teaching at Crispus Attucks H.S. She received a tuition scholarship from Western Michigan Teachers' College where she received her teachers' diploma.  She taught for one year in Cass County while continuing classes through correspondence. She returned to Western and gained permission from the college president to accelerate her subjects and completed the four-year Bachelor of Arts requirements in three years. She earned the highest scholastic record at Western and became the first "Colored" American at Western Michigan Teachers' College to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree.

During the 1920's Black teachers could not teach at the high school level. She accepted a contract in Indianapolis, Indiana, attended the Teachers College at Columbia University, where she earned a Masters' Degree in 1930. In 1932 Merze became the first "Colored" American woman to enroll at Oxford University where she studied European diplomatic history, advanced economics and world trade, international relations, and international law.  By June 1935 she had completed her studies and received a Bachelor of Literature Degree from Oxford, becoming the first Black, man or woman, to receive that degree.  She also studied German at the University of Berlin.  The position of Dean of Women and an opening to teach history at Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina, was fulfilled as Merze began her career in teaching at the college level.

Professor Tate obtained her PhD. in government at Harvard University, and Radcliff College. She taught at Morgan State College and accepted the position as Dean of Women. Following that position Tate joined the Department of History at Howard University, where she continued her career until her retirement in 1977.

Dr. Tate was the author of seven books, published by Macmillan, Harvard University Press, and Yale University Press and has received many grants for her research and scholarship.

Merze Tate, who graduated first in her class from Western Michigan Teachers College in Kalamazoo, MI; the schools first Black to earn a B.A. degree died on June 27, 1996 and was buried in a pine coffin in Pine River Cemetery near Blanchard, Michigan.

To become a High School Teacher



Western Michigan University,
1903 West Michigan Avenue,
Kalamazoo, MI 49008

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