Frances Marshall & Marcellus Neal
Persist. Frances Marshall and Marcellus Neal, the first female and male African American graduates of Indiana University, had their minds set on one goal—an education.
Despite the fact that African Americans were not even allowed to live on campus at the time Neal and Marshall went to IU, and it was rare for a black man to go to college, let alone a woman, neither let these obstacles stop them from getting an education. And as Marshall told the Indiana Daily Student in 1982, education was her concern, not the unfavorable conditions: “I never worried about being a woman going to school,” she said. “I never worried about being black going to school. I just went on with what I had to do.” Neal graduated in 1895 with an A.B. in Mathematics, Marshall in 1919 with an A.B. in English.
After completion of their IU education, both went on to serve in respected careers as teachers and school administrators. Neal was head of the science department at Washington High School in Dallas, Texas, for 25 years. His career was cut short by his tragic death in a hit-and-run automobile accident. Marshall enjoyed a long career as a teacher and university administrator at Edward Waters College in Florida, North Carolina Central University (she served as registrar from 1928 to 1964), Florida Memorial College, and Spelman College in Georgia.
In January 2002, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center was dedicated and named in honor of Marcellus Neal and Frances Marshall. The building houses the African American Cultural Center Library and the African American Arts Institute. It serves as an impressive tribute to IU’s first black graduates, whose persistence, bravery, and intelligence set a high standard for future generations of students at Indiana University.