Three of the 32 Americans named Rhodes Scholars this year are African American, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. The scholarships provide funds for two or three years of graduate study at Oxford University in Britain. Rhodes Scholars from the United States join students from 14 other jurisdictions including Australia, southern Africa, Kenya, India, and Canada. All told, about 80 Rhodes Scholars worldwide are selected each year for study at Oxford, the JBHE said.
There were 1,750 Americans seeking the scholarships this year. Of the 32 selected, six attended Harvard and three attended Yale, the publication said.
The Black scholars are, according to JBHE:
Jessica Wamala: A graduate of Villanova University who majored in political science, Arab and Islamic studies and global interdisciplinary studies, Wamala is working on her master’s in political science at Villanova and is captain of the university’s basketball team. She is a chess enthusiast who will work on a master’s in Middle Eastern studies in England.
Joshua Aiken: A published poet and senior at Washington University in St. Louis, Aiken is majoring in American culture studies and political science. A resident of Eugene, Ore., he was the undergraduate student representative on the university’s board of trustees. He has been abroad before, studying in Northern Ireland and in Germany. He will pursue a master’s in sociology.
Donald Mayfield Brown: An English and philosophy major at Mississippi State University, Brown previously studied English literature at Christ Church College at Oxford. At Mississippi State, he founded the creative arts journal and serves as vice president of the philosophy and religion club. He will work on a master’s degree in modern English literature at Oxford.
The first Black person believed to have won a Rhodes scholarship was Alain LeRoy Locke, who went on to become a philosopher and literary figure of the Harlem Renaissance, was selected in 1907. “It is generally believed that at the time of the award the Rhodes committee did not know that Locke was Black until after he had been chosen,” the JBHE website said.