Who in the World is Merze Tate?
“The best that we as educators can give our students and graduates is capacity for continued growth. Having a purpose gives meaning to what human beings do. We cannot play football effectively unless we know where the goal line is. We cannot play the human game without right aspirations, leading us toward durable accomplishments.”
She was stabbed and left for dead. Some documents on her are still “classified.” She attended one of the first public meetings of Adolph Hitler in Germany and purchased a ticket for a passenger flight in outer space. She rubbed elbows with prime ministers, purchased a ticket for a proposed first passenger flight to outer space and left millions to universities upon her death in 1996.
More than eight years ago I learned of the phenomenal Merze Tate. Her name stood out to me on a list provided by Western Michigan University’s Alumni of ice. My assignment for the Kalamazoo Gazette (Michigan) was to write a story about WMU’s African American Firsts. The list produced a list of alumni who had earned local, national and international acclaim. However, one name stood out that I had never heard of, and frankly, didn’t know how to pronounce.
The name was Merze Tate. What was it about her name that I just couldn’t let go? What was it about her life that led to her being named WMU’s first African American female Distinguished Alumna? The answer was astounding and resulted in me dedicating the past eight years to chronicling her life story for the world.
With each amazing fact I learned about her another door of incredible accomplishments opened. Who was this woman who could have every title from history professor to expert in disarmament attached to her name? Who was this woman who, in the era of the Civil Rights Movement, was traveling the world and writing its history for scholarly works assigned as required reading at Ivy League schools across the country?
Tate’s life will be chronicled in the first ever, soontobe released, biography of Merze Tate.
A Life that Had no Limits…
Ladies’ Home Journal compiled a list of the 100 most influential women of the 20th Century in 1999. Their list included those who have made great impact in the world of politics, arts, science, sports, entertainment, travel, and other areas. Those such as Indira Ghandi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Helen Keller were named. While these women have extraordinary history, one woman they all knew, was not included. Her name was Merze Tate.
This African-American woman lived through the eras of Jim Crow, Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights, and many wars.
In 1935 she went on to become the first African American to earn a graduate degree from Oxford University, and in 1941, became the first African American female to earn a PhD in political science from Harvard University.
In 1950 she served as a Fulbright Scholar in India and her expertise in disarmament led to her being an advisor to General Eisenhower on international relations. She was an inventor, national bridge champion (bid in five languages) author of five political books and hundreds of papers and journal submissions, college professor at historically black colleges, and film maker for the U.S. State Department, among many other accomplishments. She was honored by such organizations as the National Urban League, the City of Detroit, and received many honorary degrees.
Tate’s name is new to many, however the impact she made on the world in various areas allowed her to leave her mark on the world for generations to come.