15. Samuel Codes Watson
School: University of Michigan
At a time when virtually no African-American physicians existed, when millions were still subject to slavery in adjacent regions, the University of Michigan defied all expectation by admitting a black student to its medical program.
Samuel Codes Watson, an aspiring physician, transferred to the school in 1853 after finding that the curriculum at Oberlin College in Cleveland did not include medicine. He discovered that the nearest large medical school was in Ann Arbor, and was surely caught off guard when he learned he was the first African-American to gain admission. Little is known about Watson's experience at the school, but his enrollment remains a source of pride in the U of M's racial legacy.