Lest We Forget: WSSU Black History Facts

As we honor Black History Month, we commemorate Winston-Salem State University’s long and distinguished list of firsts and its contributions to the transformative milestones of the collective African American journey.

Noah F. Ryder, a faculty member in the music department, composed and arranged “As We Go Forth,” the school’s alma mater, as a Christmas gift to the college in 1938.

On Feb. 23, 1960, 11 WSSU students, joined with 10 white students from Wake Forest, were arrested, jailed and found guilty of trespassing during a joint sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in downtown Winston-Salem. Three months later, an agreement was reached, and Winston-Salem’s lunch counters were integrated, marking the first sit-in victory in the state.

WSSC became the first HBCU to win a NCAA championship in 1967. The team was led by Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and coached by the legendary Clarence “Big House” Gaines.

Other firsts

  • 1893 – Classes begin with 25 students
  • 1896 – First graduating class
  • 1927 – First B.S. Education graduates (five students: Annie Laurie Cheek, Gertrude Miriam Dixon, Precious Overa Foster, Bessye Thomas Shields and Grace Ann Smith).
  • 1934 – Hazel Bingham becomes the first Miss WSTC 
  • 1938 – Imogene Brown Ellis, first president of the Alumni Association
  • 1942 – First football team. Howard “Brutus” Wilson led the team to the Flower Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida.
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