Merze Tate

Vernie Merze Tate was born on February 6, 1905 in Blanchard, Mich. The grandchild of the first Negro settlers in Mecosta County, Mich., she lived a country life, however longed to see the world outside the pine trees and dirt roads which surrounded her.

In 1927 the Blanchard, Mich. native graduated from Western State Teacher’s College (later Western Michigan University) with the school’s highest academic record at that time—all A’s and 3 B’s.

Despite her stellar academic record, Colored teachers were not hired to teach secondary education. With the assistance of the college’s administration, she would go on to teach at Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis, Ind. The school, founded by the city’s Klu Klux Klan, was an effort to segregate races. Tate, along with others, was hired by the school’s African American principal with the intent to teaching Colored students to excel beyond the founders’ intentions.

As African Americans fought through Jim Crow laws stifled the life of many, Tate decided to explore the world and use her talents and gifts on a broader scale. She would travel the world, twice; serve as an international reporter for the Afro American Newspaper in Baltimore, work as a photographer, filmmaker and researcher for the U.S. State Department, all while being a college professor.

Her educational background would include being professor and dean for Barber-Scotia College, Bennett College, Morgan State College, and Howard University where she worked from 1942-1977.

She died in 1996 at the age of 91, however he legacy lives on. She has left millions to institutes of higher learning who looked beyond her race and gender to provide her with a stellar education. Western Michigan University, Radcliffe College-Harvard University, and Howard University received everything from million-dollar contributions, to archival documents upon her death.

Tate never married, or had children. Her four siblings also were married, however did not have children. Members of her family include distant cousins who are proud of the legacy she left behind.