FAYETTE, JOHN SYKES (1810? - 27 Feb 1876) was an educator, minister, abolitionist, and the first-known AFRICAN-AMERICAN graduate of WESTERN RESERVE COLLEGE (now CWRU). Born some time around 1810, his background is unclear; he was later described as a “well educated mulatto”, but whether this referred to biracial parentage, or the older ‘mixed’ ancestry common within African Americans, is not clarified. In either case, by 1832, he was a member at Laight Street PRESBYTERIAN Church in New York City, under the Reverend Samuel H. Cox. That year, Cox recommended Fayette, a “young man (of colour) whose principles appear fixed” to Western Reserve College; he was accepted. He graduated in the class of 1836, making him the first-known African American graduate from the institution, and one of the known African American college graduates.

After finishing his degree, Fayette remained in Hudson, Ohio, where he studied theology until 1837. He married Emily Preston, a White woman, and befriended radical abolitionists John and Owen Brown. In 1839, Fayette moved to what is now Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, and tried to found a school the next year. The Wellington Institute, as it was called, was a private establishment charging $2 per student plus a personal fee for heating (a ‘moderate’ fee for the time). Though it was the first in the area to give formal grammar lessons, it did not last for more than two years, and Fayette went into debt. The school’s fees were too expensive for most working-class locals, especially with an available public option. Fayette left his creditors unpaid and began traveling to other parts of Canada. He worked in Hamilton, Ontario, as a minister and school superintendent, and died in London, Ontario, in 1876.



John Sykes Fayette, first Black WRU Grad, & Wife. Digital.case.edu "John Sykes Fayette".


Justin Evans


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