After years of rejected petitions and open letters, posthumous degrees have been awarded at Yale University.
New Haven Register reports that the Ivy League has conferred honorary master’s degrees to Rev. James W.C. Pennington and Rev. Alexander Crummell.
Pennington — who was born enslaved and escaped from Maryland in 1828 — was the first known Black person to study at Yale. He studied from 1834 to 1837. Crummell attended the university three years after in 1840 for one year.
According to Yale, Pennington, and Crummell — who both studied theology — weren’t allowed to formally register in classes, participate in classroom discussions, or access library resources because they were Black.
“Although we cannot return to Pennington and Crummell the access and privileges they were denied when they studied at Yale, we recognize their work and honor their legacies by conferring on them these M.A. Privatim degrees,” Yale President Peter Salovey said, according to the outlet.
Salovey continued, “With these honorary degrees, we aim to extend the remembrance of Pennington; to broaden the understanding and commemoration of Crummell; and to inscribe, for perpetuity, their names in the official records of the university.”
Yale is set to host a commencement ceremony for Pennington and Crummell in the fall, the outlet notes.
One of the student groups behind Pennington receiving his honorary degree was the Pennington Legacy Group. Noah Humphrey, the founder, believes that the decision is long overdue.
“We are still not done, but this means that we have set a foundation that is forever,” Humphrey said, according to the report.
“I mean, the fact that we have some of the brightest scholars in the world, but we couldn’t come to an agreement on giving the first Black student their rightful degree is insane,” the third-year Divinity School student added.
Humphrey, alongside the Pennington Legacy Group, aims to continue in their efforts toward having Yale do more in “correcting the injustices.”