Friday
Aug012014

December 25, 1888 - Alice Rowen Johnson

Pictured above are the women of the 1888 graduating class of the State Normal School in Los Angeles.  Alice Rowen Johnson (top row, second from the right) was the area's first black college graduate.  Education in the 19th century was vastly different from what it is today. For a youngster to obtain only eight years of schooling was not uncommon and high school graduation was rare.

The State Normal School of Los Angeles (a two year college) was created in 1881 and the first classes began in August 1882.  In 1919 the name was changed to the Southern Branch of the University of California.  The third and fourth years were added in 1924 and in 1927 the name was changed to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

Alice was accepted into the college when she was 16 years old.  She was the first member of her race to enter the school, and on December 25, 1888, she was graduated in a class of 16. Alice became the first known black to teach white children.

Alice was the daughter of Elizabeth (Lizzy) Flake Rowan and Charles Rowan, who lived at 361 D Street near downtown San Bernardino.  Lizzy was a former slave, who at the age of four was given as a wedding present to James and Agnes Flake.  Lizzy came to San Bernardino as part of a wagon train of Mormons in 1851.  Alice's father ran a barber shop for almost 40 years inside the Southern Hotel, located at 4th and D Streets.

Click here to see a biography of Alice Rowan and other pioneer women in San Bernardino.