Blanche Ketene Bruce
First African American to graduate from the University of Kansas. 1859-1952
Blanche Bruce, born in Brunswick, Missouri in 1859, was the first African American to graduate from the University of Kansas (1885). He later earned a master's degree in education in 1891. After graduation he was appointed principal of the segregated Sumner School in Leavenworth and held this position for 54 years until he retired in 1939.
For nearly 40 of those years Bruce tutored young men who were prospective candidates for West Point and Annapolis. He developed a rigorous course of sessions five nights a week for three months. As his reputation grew, his students included sons of Army officers at Fort Leavenworth. His intent was to drill the young men in numerous subjects so they would be prepared for any question.
By the time he retired in 1939, it was estimated "Professor Bruce" had tutored approximately 1800 young men. Of those, only three had failed their entrance exams.
Bruce's better known uncle and namesake, Blanche Kelso Bruce, had been a senator from Mississippi and the first African American senator to serve a full term. He also founded the first African American school in the United States in the 1860s. Blanche Ketene Bruce entered into politics once. In 1892 he was the Republican candidate for Kansas State Auditor. That was not a good year for Republicans and he lost to the Populist candidate.
Entry: Bruce, Blanche Ketene
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: April 2010
Date Modified: September 2012
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