Remembering William Sanders Scarborough, The First Black Classical Scholar



The first black classical scholar is thought to be William Sanders Scarborough. Scarborough rose to prominence as a scholar of Greek and Latin literature and served as president of Wilberforce University from 1908 to 1920. He was fluent in several classical languages and wrote a popular university textbook in Classical Greek in the nineteenth century.

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William S. Scarborough was born in Macon, Georgia, on February 16, 1852, to a free Black father and an enslaved mother. Because his mother was enslaved, he inherited her position. Despite being forbidden, Scarborough learned to read and write by the age of ten.

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Due to his lack of education, he became an apprentice shoemaker and secretary of a prominent black Association at a young age. After the American Civil War, he was able to finish his education at Lewis High School in Macon before attending Atlanta University for a few years in 1869. Scarborough graduated from Oberlin College in 1875.


Scarborough, then 25, was hired as a Latin and Greek professor at Wilberforce University in Xenia, Ohio, in 1877. Scarborough wrote a textbook, First Lessons in Greek, to assist his students. The book was first published in 1881 and quickly became popular in colleges and universities across the country, including Yale University. Scarborough’s second book, Birds of Aristophanes, was published in 1886. On September 9, 1926, William Sanders passed away.



Written by How Africa News

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