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Miami University honors first Black graduate Nellie Craig

<p>Miami&#x27;s Campus Avenue Building will be renamed after the schools first Black graduate, Nellie Craig. </p>

Miami's Campus Avenue Building will be renamed after the schools first Black graduate, Nellie Craig.

Miami University’s Campus Avenue Building will be renamed Nellie Craig Hall after Nellie Craig, the first Black student to graduate from Miami in 1905. The Board of Trustees (BoT) approved the decision at its Sept. 25 meeting. 

The recommendation came from Miami’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force earlier this month.

Craig earned a two-year degree in teaching from the Ohio State Normal School, now known as the College of Education, Health and Society. The Ohio State Normal School was founded in 1902 as the first school at Miami and one of the first teacher education schools in Ohio, according to Miami’s College of Education, Health and Society website.

The Ohio State Normal School enrolled the first female students and first students of color at Miami. Craig was one of 20 women enrolled.

“There is a lobby in Armstrong or a room that Nellie Craig was honored in … so we are not the only one to think of [honoring Craig],” said Anthony James, co-chair of the DEI task force. 

After her time at the Ohio State Normal School, Craig “was the first Black educator to student teach in the Oxford public School system to a mixed-race classroom,” according to the Miami University News and Communication website.

“Many African American students do not have a building named after them,” James said. “[It’s] meaningful to take this step of providing such advancement in diversity, equity and inclusion.” 

Miami’s Black Alumni Advisory Committee (BAAC) posted the news that Miami’s board of trustees voted to rename the building on its Instagram page, @mublkalum, on Sept. 25. 

The Instagram post read:

“A significant moment in Miami’s history! Nellie paved the way for thousands of Black individuals from around the country and the world to obtain a degree from Miami University. We THANK YOU Nellie for your perseverance.”

Jannie Kamara, Student Body President and Black senior at Miami, thinks this recognition of Craig is great.

“I think it's amazing to focus on her work in education, and particularly name a building that she worked with after her, to dedicate and appreciate her making such big strides of racial equality and graduating from the school,” Kamara said.

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The Campus Avenue Building was constructed in 1969 for elementary students of the McGuffey Laboratory School until its closing in 1983. The Campus Avenue Building currently hosts the Campus Services Center, Enrollment Management and Student Success, the Student Success Center and University Communications and Marketing.

Kamara said that while the renaming is historic, she wishes it would have happened sooner.

“I absolutely believe that it should’ve happened sooner, but I also understand that the fact that we are making strides now and [it] is better than it happening in like three or four years from now,” Kamara said.

James and Vicka Bell-Robinson, the second co-chair of the DEI task force, wrote a two-page letter advocating for the renaming recommendation. James said a critical part of the recommendation process is proposing why the change would benefit the community, which he included in the letter.

“I hope that [this] increases [Black students’] sense of inclusion … and it is a meaningful symbol for them. It makes them feel like they are a part of the [Miami] community that they belong to,” James said. “I don’t want to see it as something just for African Americans, we should all celebrate this as something for our community.”