Indiana Daily Student

Marshall, Neal were IU pioneers

When Marcellus Neal died in a hit-and-run crash in 1939, his Chicago Tribune obituary was only 32 words long, beginning with his name, his age and his race. He was "colored," it reads in its first line.\nThough Neal's obituary demonstrates he might have died at a time when a black man's death did not justify attention, he lived a life that challenged such racial inequalities and ultimately changed them. Neal became the first black student to graduate from IU when he received a degree in mathematics in 1895. \nToday, Neal's accomplishments are honored along with Frances Marshall, who was the first black woman to graduate from IU in 1919. The Neal-Marshall Center is named for the students, as is the Neal-Marshall Alumni Club.\n"They were pioneers without question," said Clarence Boone Jr., director of the alumni club. "They persevered and, above all they encountered, they earned a degree from Indiana University. And in their respective fields, they went out and made some pretty long-lasting marks."\nNeal was born in Lebanon, Tenn., and later moved to Greenfield, Ind., with his family. It was there that he excelled in high school and earned a scholarship to attend IU. \nNeal enrolled and did well in classes, earning the highest possible grade in most of them. Despite his father's illness that nearly sidetracked his academic work during his senior year, Neal graduated in 1895.\nBoone said Neal and Marshall's graduations were especially difficult because each often faced the racial trappings of the era.\n"They pretty much had to have a \npersevering spirit," Boone said. "Strides were made, but they were very minimal."\nNeal spent 10 years traveling and teaching around the country before becoming the head of the science department at Washington High School in Dallas. He later retired from that job and moved to Chicago to work in civil service. He died there Nov. 6, 1939, from injuries sustained when he was hit by a car that fled the scene.\nMarshall graduated 24 years after Neal with a degree in English after coming to IU in 1915. Marshall earned a graduate degree in educational administration at the University of Chicago and Columbia University and worked as a registrar at three different universities. Marshall, who died in 1987, recalled her experience at IU in a February 1982 article in the Indiana Daily Student.\n"When I said I was going to college, people thought I was crazy," she said. "It was unusual for a woman to go to college, especially a black woman."\nIn that same article, Marshall described some of the racial tensions that permeated her time at IU. She said that, at graduation, a white woman next to her refused to walk by her side because she was black. She also talked about black students finally being allowed to use the pool, but only on Fridays. And, even then, she said it would often be drained just that day.\n"(IU President William Lowe Bryan) said 'You all ought to be glad to have the privilege of attending Indiana University, let alone swim in the swimming pool," Marshall said.\nMarshall retired to Hampton, Va., at 72 and died 15 years later.\nBoone said the legacies of both Neal and Marshall are remembered today.\n"Both were phenomenal, outstanding people," he said. "But it is their spirit and their fortitude that they are remembered for the most"

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