For the second year since 1994, four African-American undergraduates have won Rhodes Scholarships, which carry with them the privilege of studying at Oxford, England’s oldest and most venerated university.
Named for the South African mining magnate, Cecil John Rhodes, the scholarships, worth about $50,000 each for two years, have been prominent passports to gateways of power, privilege and prestige since they were created in 1903.
Two of the four blacks are men, and two are women. They are Andre McCall from Truman State University, Ugwechi Amadi, an MIT senior, and two Harvard College undergraduates, Darryl Finkton and Jean Junior.
Representing 12.5 percent of the total of 32 winners from colleges and universities in the United States, the four men and women will take their places at Oxford next fall with the 28 other scholarship winners from this country. All 32 scholarship winners were elected by 16 committees operating under the umbrella of the Rhodes Scholarship Trust, based in Vienna, Virginia.
More than 7,000 winners worldwide have been selected since 1903, but no exact number for North Americans are unavailable because paper records for several years were not transferred to microfiche; at least 3,000, however, hailed from this country and Canada.
Along with blacks from this country, Africans from South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland were selected. Jamaicans and Caribbean were also chosen as well. Other scholarship winners of color will represent India, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.
For most of the past 46 years, American blacks have won at least one Rhodes. Two African American seniors were chosen in 1963 – John Edgar Wideman, a University of Pennsylvania student, and J. Stanley Sanders, from Whittier College, near Los Angeles. In some of the years after Wideman and Sanders were selected, most recently in 1996, no blacks were chosen.
In 1907, Alain Locke, the intellectual wizard known as the father of the Harlem Renaissance, was the first African-American awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. That ignited a threatened boycott by the white, southern winners, who claimed they’d refuse their scholarships if Locke’s were not rescinded. Rhodes officials were not intimidated and said Locke’s selection would not be withdrawn. The southerners dropped their threat, but never spoke to Locke during his two years at Oxford.