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Black Students Make History as Student Body Presidents

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A number of elite, predominantly white institutions made news this year by electing Black student body leaders.

Last month, Mississippian Noah Harris made history as the first Black man to be elected student body president of Harvard University. An alumnus of Oak Grove High School, Harris advocated for the Black Lives Matter movement and raised over $300,000 for civil rights organizations.

Harris is part of a cohort of Black student body leaders in top-tier academic institutions where students of color have been largely underrepresented. 

Other Black Student Body Leaders 

Harris’ appointment came months after Jason Carroll of Brown University, Naomi Riley of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Danielle Geathers of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology took office earlier this year. 

Geathers was the first Black woman to be elected student body president at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the school’s 159 years. Like Harris, the need to amplify underrepresented student voices within the school propelled her to run for president. 

While undergraduate presidencies typically last one academic term, their impact could go beyond their tenure.

Geathers joined hands with other MIT students in protesting racial injustice and police brutality in the country. 

However, Carroll’s campaign at Brown started before George Floyd’s killing, even before COVID-19. He informed NBC News how the year forced him to “put things like housing conditions and general student life stuff on the back burner” and look at the bigger problems people were facing.

The unprecedented victory of Black student presidents across several prestigious colleges this year sends a resounding message of diversity and inclusion.

Kahlil Greene, Yale College’s first Black student body president who left office in September, told NBC News, “Having young, gifted Black students leading institutions that, in some cases, are older than the United States is extremely inspiring and symbolic of the Black community’s progress.”

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