Desegregation Begins

Willis and Travis: The First of Many

William & Mary’s first African American student, Hulon Willis, took summer courses toward his Masters of Education. Years later, his son and granddaughter attended William & Mary, and the Hulon Willis Alumni Association was be founded in his honor. A few months after Willis’s acceptance in May 1951, Edward Augustus Travis began his studies at Marshall-Wythe School of Law. When Travis received his BCL degree in 1954, he became the first African American alumnus of William & Mary.

Miriam Johnson Carter

Though the admission of Travis and Willis was historic, William & Mary’s discrimination toward black students did not end then. When Miriam Carter applied to the education program in 1955, she was denied entrance because Virginia State College, a historically black institution, offered the same program. Carter, who continued to apply to program after program, was finally accepted into William & Mary’s law program in September of 1955. Though Carter did not graduate from William & Mary, she is recognized as the institution’s first female African American student.

The First African American Undergraduate

In 1963, Oscar Blayton began his freshman year, becoming the first undergraduate African American student to attend William & Mary. Though he commuted to school every day, Blayton’s presence on campus was recognized. He was interviewed by the Virginia Gazette soon after his freshman year began and was recruited for the Black Drop Club’s production of “The Time of Your Life” because the show called for a black piano player. Blayton was only two years into his college career when he was drafted for service with the Marines. While he did not return to William & Mary, Blayton remained a part of the Williamsburg community through his law practice.