Daughter of slaves graduated from Colorado in 1918
Fundraising for the Lucile Berkeley Buchanan endowed scholarship is now up and running in honor of the first black woman to graduate from CU.
Berkeley Buchanan was the daughter of slaves Lavina and James Fenton Buchanan. Her family moved from Virginia to Denver between 1881 and 1882. She was born in Colorado and graduated from CU in 1918, before her death at 105 years old in 1989.
She will be honored with a birthday party on Friday, April 26.
Associate professor Polly McLean announced the fundraising campaign in February and said Berkeley Buchanan’s story is still unraveling.
“In terms of her school, we are getting this information from her 92-year-old niece,” McLean said.
Peter Wilson, the administrative assistant for the Women and Gender Studies Program, tells the tale of Lucile’s graduation ceremony.
“Lucy came dressed and sat waiting to be called up to the stage when a young white woman came up and said, ‘Lucy, I’ll be your partner’ and handed Lucy her diploma,” Wilson said. “When they called her name, this woman stood up and Lucy did not walk.”
Wilson went on to explain that Berkeley Buchanan was a non-traditional student. She was in her thirties when she went to CU. She probably graduated in four years and until recently was not acknowledged as the first black woman to graduate.
It is also known that she majored in German and minored in English.
McLean stumbled upon information about Lucile while doing a project on the first black woman to graduate from CU. Another woman was considered to be the first, but McLean found it was actually Berkeley Buchanan.
CU Professor Joanne Belknap donated $5,000 to jump-start the endowed scholarship. In order for the scholarship to exist, the CU Foundation requires an additional $20,000 to actually establish the endowment.
Kelly Orleans, a junior majoring in women and gender studies and political science, said the group wants to raise $25,000. This money then goes into an interest-bearing account.
“It’s given out to one recipient and is intended for, but not limited to, a student of color or first generation student who has declared a women’s studies major,” Orleans said.
Orleans said the scholarship was named after Berkeley Buchanan because she was a black woman who graduated from a prominent university before the civil rights movement and women’s suffrage.
Wilson said it is going to be a little while before the scholarship can be awarded.
“A real down-to-earth estimate is 2010,” Wilson said. “Usually it is a five year process, we are only 20 percent of the way there and we have been working on it the whole year.”
Contact Campus Press staff writer Molly Gasiewicz at email@example.com