The First 3 African American women to receive PhDs

Originally posted on PhD Balance social media platforms on 02/20/2020.

Graphic with pictures of Drs Georgiana Simpson, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander and Eva Beatrice Dykes, Simpson and Alexander are wearing academic robes, the picture of Dykes is a side profile shot while she is wearing a blouse.



The first three African American women to receive PhDs, all in 1921 were:

  1. Dr Georgiana Simpson (left in graphic)

  2. Dr Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander (right)

  3. Dr Eva Beatrice Dykes (centre)




1. Dr Georgiana Simpson (1866 - 1944)

Picture of Dr Georgianna Simpson wearing academic robes on a light blue Background.

Dr Georgiana Simpson was the first African American woman to earn her PhD at the University of Chicago. Her degree was in German and she was 55 years old.


She also earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Chicago, despite being discouraged from living on campus by white women and university officials.


She taught at Dunbar High School and Howard University.


2. Dr Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander (1898 - 1989)

Picture of Dr Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander wearing academic robes on a light blue background.

Dr Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander earned her PhD in economics from the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation was on the standard of living of Black families in Philadelphia.


Dr Alexander attended Dunbar High School and earned her B.A. and M.A. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania.


She also became the first African American woman to graduate from UPenn’s law school.


She served President Harry S. Truman as a member of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights, which led to a federal law against lynching and helped found the National Bar Association.


She once said, “I knew well that the only way I could get that door open was to knock it down. Because I knocked all of them down


3. Dr Eva Beatrice Dykes (1893 - 1986)

Picture of Dr Eva Beatrice Dykes, it is a side profile and she is wearing a coat.

Dr Eva B. Dykes earned bachelor’s degrees from Howard University and Radcliffe College, where she also earned her master’s and doctorate degrees. She studied English, Latin, German, and Greek.


She taught at Howard University, Walden University, and Oakwood University. She was a very devout Seventh Day Adventist Church member.



Shoutout your favorite Black women PhDs!