Pitt’s First Black Female Graduate Was A Talented Educator And Civic Leader

By Katie Blackley

In the early 1900s, Jean Hamilton became the first African-American woman to receive her bachelor’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Pittsburgh. She was a leader in a field with few women, and is one of a handful of black women under consideration to replace the controversial Stephen Foster statue that once stood in Oakland.

Jean Hamilton grew up on Pittsburgh’s North Side in 1887 when it was still Allegheny City. She was one of six children and according to Pittsburgh writer C. Denise Johnson, was raised in a home that valued rigorous learning. Johnson profiled the Pitt alumna for the magazine Blue, Gold, and Black 2010 and said Hamilton’s mother, Sadie Black Hamilton, was a juvenile court officer who also ran a private school for African-American children. Sadie was a member of the Frances E. W. Harper League, an African-American service organization with a philanthropic mission.

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