This year saw the publication of a nearly decade-long journey by Polly E Bugros McLean to recover and tell the story of Lucile Berkeley Buchanan Jones, who in 1918 became the first female African-American graduate of the University of Colorado, although she was not allowed to "walk" at graduation, nor is she pictured in the 1918 CU yearbook.
The first-born daughter of emancipated slaves, Lucile refused to be defined by the racist and sexist climate of her times, settling on a career path in teaching that required great courage in the face of pernicious Jim Crow laws. Embracing her sister’s dream for higher education and W. E. B. Du Bois’s ideology, she placed education and intelligence at the forefront of her life, teaching in places where she could most benefit African American students. Over her 105 years she was an eyewitness to spectacular, inspiring, and tragic moments in American history, including horrific lynchings and systemic racism in housing and business opportunities, as well as the success of women's suffrage and Black-owned businesses and educational institutions.
In telling Lucile's story, Professor McLean depicts the rise of the African American middle class through the historical journey of Lucile and her family from slavery in northern Virginia to life in the American West, using their personal story as a lens through which to examine the greater experience of middle-class Blacks in the early twentieth century.
Professor McLean has been busy during the course of the fiscal year, giving innumberable talks around the state and media interviews and garnering the most publicity University Press of Colorado | Utah State University Press has had for a single title in some time.
“Reading Remembering Lucile, we mountain dwellers will appreciate learning about this remarkable woman from Denver, so near and yet so far from the experiences many of us have known.”
—Colorado Central Magazine
“Chronicling African American women’s history often requires patience and perseverance in the quest to fill gaps in the historical record. Polly E. Bugros McLean demonstrates such tenacity as she recounts the story of the University of Colorado’s first African American woman graduate, Lucile Berkeley Buchanan Jones. . . . . McLean’s work is useful to historians and would benefit advanced undergraduate and graduate students as they embark on their own projects.”
—Western Historical Quarterly
For more stories about the book, links to local news coverage can be found below:
- Denver Post, 2016
- Daily Camera, 1
- Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine, March 14, 2018
- Daily Camera, 2
- The Root
- Channel 9 News
- Denver Post, 2018
- Colorado Matters
Professor McLean's research and the publication of Remembering Lucile forged a path for the University of Colorado's recognition of Lucile on the 100th annivesary of her graduation, prompting this statement from James W.C. White, interim dean at the College of Arts and Sciences.