Black scholars are making historic moves at Ivy League schools. According to Hattiesburg American, 20-year-old Noah Harris was recently appointed to become president of Harvard University’s Undergraduate Council, making him the first Black man to be elected by the school’s student body.
The government major, who hails from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is not the first Black person to sit at the helm of the student government. In 1993, Cary Gabay was named president by the student council and 21 years ago Fentrice Driskell—who currently serves in the Florida House of Representatives—became the first Black woman to lead the council. The distinction between their appointments and Harris’ is that he was voted in by the students. Harris, who was elected along with Harvard junior Jenny Gan who will serve as vice president, says he wants to put the focus on making the 384-year-old school more inclusive. He also plans on implementing initiatives focused on the mental health and wellness of Harvard’s students.
“This is a major statement by the Harvard student body to entrust a Black man with such an unprecedented moment in its history,” the aspiring attorney said in a statement. “Harvard’s community specifically, it’s very diverse but it’s kind of diverse in that it has its own separate communities. A lot of what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to bring communities together.” Harris and Gan will be sworn in on December 6.
Harris’ appointment comes months after Danielle Geathers made history by becoming the first Black woman student body president at MIT. Like Harris, the need for more diversity within the school propelled her to run for president. “I actually got involved in student government because they were looking to diversify,” she told CNBC Make It. “The committee I joined had historically been all white women. I decided I did want to be president. I think I was just a little scared, but given the opportunity, I was like ‘I can step up and I can do it.’”