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In Honor of an Unfettered Slave

Asculpture was dedicated late last month to a Lafayette College (Pa.) graduate, David McDonogh, who is believed to be one of the first slaves — if not the first — to earn a college degree. One of the nation’s foremost contemporary sculptors, Mel Edwards, was commissioned for the 16-foot tall project titled “Transcendence,” which was made from five tons of stainless steel.

Lafayette’s first Black graduate, McDonogh, was sent to the college by his owner, a Louisiana rice planter who was a supporter of the American Colonization Society’s plan to send freed slaves to Liberia. However, McDonogh upon graduation in 1844 ignored his owner’s plans for him and kept asking for more education. McDonogh then finished his medical degree in 1847.

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