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Oldest Living Brown Univ. Grad, Alpha Kappa Alpha Soror, Passes Away at 109

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Photo Credit: Brown University

The oldest living alumnae of Brown University has passed away at the age of 109, according to the school’s website.

Beatrice Coleman was the grandchild of slaves, but that didn’t stop her from attending Brown University, where she joined Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and received her degree in 1925.

“Meeting and talking with Bea Coleman was a great privilege,” said Brown President Christina Paxson, who recalled meeting Coleman on her 109th birthday. “She sat down at the piano and played Brown’s alma mater for us. Her time at Brown was plainly of great value to her.”

Coleman was raised by her mother, an assistant to a dressmaker, and her grandparents in Providence. Howard University was Coleman’s first choice for college because two black doctors in her city had graduated from there, but her family didn’t have the money to send her away to school. So instead of Howard, she attended Brown while living at home with her family. She wasn’t allowed to live on campus because black students were banned from college dorms.

“They had to lodge with colored families in town,” Coleman once said, explaining the living situation for many black students who attended white colleges.

While in college, Coleman majored in Latin and history. She also joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, which became one of her most beloved passions in life.

After graduating, Coleman had to leave her state to find a teaching job due to segregation in Providence. When she joined Emma P. Bradley Hospital’s school department, a newsletter described her as “a Negro with attractive coloring and a mobile face that lights up when she talks about the children in her charge.”

In addition to being an AKA, Coleman was also a member of the Rhode Island Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and the NAACP.

 

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