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February 17, 2011

John Sykes Fayette

CWRU’s earliest documented African-American student was John Sykes Fayette. Having prepped at Western Reserve Academy, Fayette entered Western Reserve College in 1832 when the college was a mere 6 years old. He graduated in 1836 with the A.B. degree and was a theological student for the 1836/37 academic year.

Born in 1810, Fayette arrived in Hudson with a letter of introduction from his pastor, James H. Cox, of the Leight Street Presbyterian Church in New York.
“To the Rev. President Storrs, of Hudson College, Ohio; & others, to whom this document may come:

“The bearer, Mr. John Fayette, being about to remove for a time to your neighborhood & collegiate care, I recommend him to your esteem & Christian confidence, as a regular & worthy member of the church of my pastoral care; a young man (of colour) whose principles appear fixed & sound; a candidate for the Christian ministry, of good & hopeful promise; & a scholar of respectable attainments and behaviour.

“He has the best wishes of Christians who know him, for his prosperity in all things. May the guidance & grace of God be with him in the way of his pilgrimage to the end, & make him useful in his own blessed cause!”[1]

All students entering Western Reserve College in 1832 pursued the same curriculum: Greek, Latin, Mathematics, History, Philosophy, Chemistry, Astronomy, Natural Philosophy. Fayette would have attended devotional exercises twice a day in the college chapel and public worship on the Sabbath with the Faculty (unless permission was granted by parents or guardians to attend elsewhere). Systematic exercise was “deemed indispensable to health and improvement of the students.” To further this goal, mechanical labor (manual labor) was provided for. Fayette paid a tuition of $20 per year, room rent of $4.00-$6.00 per year, and $.50-$1.00 a week for board.[2]

In the Abolitionism/Colonization controversy on campus in 1833, Fayette joined 24 fellow students in signing a petition defending their professor (Beriah Green) who supported the abolitionist cause. In 1835 he voted for an anti-slavery resolution in the Western Reserve College Church.

Fayette became a minister and served for many years in various churches in Canada. He died in London, Ontario, Canada in 1876.

John Sykes Fayette in later years.

[1] Letter of James H. Cox to Charles Storrs, 4/23/1832
[2] Catalogue of the Officers and Students, of Western Reserve College, 12/1832

Other African American History Month recollections include CWRU's Afro-American Studies Program and African-American Society

Posted by hxy2 at February 17, 2011 04:47 PM

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