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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UAB chapter.

Mary Jane Patterson

(1840 – 1894)

Did you know the first African American woman to attend college and graduate with her B.A. degree in 1862 was Mary Jane Patterson?! Not only did Mary Jane Patterson achieve being the first African American woman to graduate with her Bachelors’s, but she also graduated WITH the highest honors. During a time where Blacks were still viewed by the color of their skin, and not for the knowledge they withheld, Patterson beat the odds. Patterson went on to teach after graduating in Chillicothe, Ohio however she was not there for long. She later moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she joined another one of her classmates teaching at the Female Department of the Institute for Colored Youth. She then moved to Washington, D.C in 1869 where she taught at the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth, later known as Dunbar High School.  Patterson became the principal at Dunbar High School in 1871 and resigned in 1884 due to the school’s enrollment exceeding. Patterson spent the majority of her life working with young colored girls because she felt it was her job to help them to reach their goals in life, and to provide them with different opportunities she never had. She died in 1894 at the age of 54 but her legacy lives on as she is known for paving the way for black women in education. 

My name is Alierykel Williams, but I go by Liery and I'm a Junior majoring in Biomedical Science and Chemistry.