Lucy Stanton Day Sessions is considered by some historians the first Black woman to graduate from a four-year college in 1850. Although another pioneer, Mary Jane Patterson, was officially awarded a bachelor’s degree in 1862, Mrs. Day Sessions’ coursework was considered by Oberlin College to be equal to a four-year degree although it lacked some core courses. Born Lucy Stanton on Oct 16, 1831 to free parents Samuel and Margaret in Cleveland, Ohio, she would lose her father as a toddler.
Her mother remarried abolitionist and successful Black businessman John Brown. The family was involved in the Underground Railroad network and harbored escaped slaves in their home. Blacks weren’t allowed attend public schools in Cleveland, so Brown created the city’s first school for African-Americans. Oberlin Collegiate Institute (now Oberlin College) in Northern Ohio was the first college to regularly allow the enrollment of Black male and female students. Day Sessions completed the “ladies course” at the school after enrolling in 1846, which didn’t require study of Greek, Latin or high levels of Math.