CINCINNATI— This Black History Month, one university is moving toward more diversity while honoring its first Black graduates. 

What You Need To Know

  • The University of Cincinnati recently built a memorial behind its Arts and Sciences building 

  • One graduate honored is Alice May Easton, the first Black woman to graduate from UC

  • Educators say her legacy is still inspiring students and paved the way for many 

  • UC educators say the student body this year is the most diverse in its history

Littisha Bates is inspired as she looks at what’s just outside her office in UC's Arts and Sciences building. It's the memorial honoring the university's first Black graduates, including Alice May Easton, the first Black woman to graduate from UC.

“She (Easton) was around at a time when girls and women, especially Black women, were not seen as being academically competent, let alone mathematically competent. She's identified historically as being a math whiz," said Bates, Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence and Community Partnership. 

She said Easton helped pave the way when she got her degree back in 1897.

“There's the significance of the time period in which she did that," said Bates. "Her graduation was held in the building named McMicken. That has a great significance if you know the historical context of that time."

McMicken was Charles McMicken, a slave owner who historians say gave a million dollars to the city to start the university in 1858 for "White boys and girls."

A court ruling changed that a few years later. In 2018, the McMicken name was taken off UC's Arts and Sciences building while Easton’s name was added there in the memorial. 

In the last year, a memorial was put up with Easton's name along with two others of the earliest Black graduates at UC.

“It's really a shining example of we can do this and we know we can do this because we have a legacy of folks like us who have done this," said Bates. 

It’s all a part of new inclusion efforts after a record-setting year. 

UC educators say the university currently has the most diverse student body in its history, with minorities currently making up more than 24%.

Bates said there’s still more work to do that she plans to be a part of.

“If you see yourself as an advocate, if you see yourself as someone wanting to contribute to diversity, equity and inclusion, belonging and social justice, then you need to think about what can I do in my sphere of influence to be the change that I want to see,” said Bates.