Diversity and Inclusion
Timeline of African Americans at USM
Clyde Kennard, the first African American to attempt to enroll at USM, submits the
first of three formal applications to Mississippi Southern College (University name
at the time), seeking to become the first Black student. Watch a documentary and read his story
Raylawni Branch and Gwendolyn Elaine Armstrong
Southern Miss enrolls its first African American students, Raylawni Branch and Gwendolyn
First African American Student Organization, the Afro-American Cultural Society is formed.
Dr. Walter Washington
Dr. Walter Washington becomes the first African American to earn a doctoral degree from Southern Miss, also making him the first from any Mississippi institution of higher learning.
Basketball player, Wilbert Jordan, becomes the University's first African American
Fred Cook is selected as the University's first African American Mr. USM.
Jacqueline Redd is selected as the University's first African American Homecoming
Dr. Walter Washington and Clyde Kennard
At a University celebration honoring the contributions of African American students,
faculty and staff, the Student Services Building is renamed Kennard-Washington Hall
in honor of Dr. Walter Washington and Clyde Kennard.
First African American president
Dr. Rodney D. Bennett becomes the University’s 10th president and first African American president of any predominantly white university in the state of Mississippi.
The Armstrong-Branch Pedestrian Plaza
The Armstrong-Branch Pedestrian Plaza is named and dedicated to honor the courage of the first African American students, Raylawni Branch and Gwendolyn Elaine Armstrong.
50th Anniversary of Desegregation at USM
September 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of desegregation at USM. The University commemorated history by “Celebrating 50 Years of Progress: Desegregation of The University of Southern Mississippi.”
Clyde Kennard Mississippi Freedom Trail marker
A new marker on the Mississippi Freedom Trail memorializes Clyde Kennard, the first African American student known to apply for admission to USM.
Racism and Rights Activism in Hattiesburg
Dr. William Sturkey wrote a book, "Hattiesburg: An American City in Black and White," in which he explores the history of the civil rights movement in "The Hub City."
Watch Dr. William Sturkey explain on PBS how the study of Hattiesburg, a small Southern town, can inform the national public discourse about race relations today.