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Blue, Gold, and Black

Written by Sharon S. Blake

In 1829, a young Black man was admitted to the Western University of Pennsylvania, later renamed the University of Pittsburgh. But in that era, Black students were rare. So, then-Chancellor Robert Bruce—who bowed to student opposition to a Black student in the classroom—devised a plan that allowed the young man to sit on a chair just outside the classroom door.  From there, the student could hear the lessons and gain instruction.

That young man, whose name is unknown, was the first of many at the University who endured hardships that eventually paved the way for other Black students to attend Pitt. His story is part of a new documentary, Blue, Gold & Black: From Doorway to Distinction, screened at a world premiere in February. The event was the University’s 2009 K. Leroy Irvis Black History Month Program, commemorating February as Black History Month.

The film, which includes perspectives from Pitt alumni, faculty, and staff of the University, tells the story of the 180-year experience of Black men and women at Pitt. Through their persistence and intelligence, they broke down barriers and took their rightful places in the classrooms, on the playing fields, and in Pitt history.