On this day in 1964, Roger Arliner Young, the first black woman to receive a doctoral degree in zoology, died in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Born in Virginia in 1889, Young moved with her family to Burgettstown, Pennsylvania at a young age. In 1916, Young decided to study music and enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Although her grades were poor at first, Ernest Everett Just, a black woman who was the head of the Zoology department, saw promise in her.
In 1923, Young graduated with a bachelor’s degree. Just one year later, she began studying at the University of Chicago for her master’s degree, which she earned in 1926. She wrote in her college yearbook, “Not failure, but low aim is a crime.”
Young worked with Ernest Everett Just for several years, holding the position of Assistant Professor from 1923 to 1935. While studying at the University of Chicago, Young was asked to join a prestigious scientific research society called Sigma Xi. Her first article was published in the journal Science in 1924. This made Young the first black woman to professionally publish in the field.
After graduating with her master’s degree, Young worked with Ernest Everett Just in Massachusetts at the Marine Biological Laboratory. In June of 1937, Young decided to obtain her Ph.D., enrolling at the University of Pennsylvania.
Studying with a prominent scientist she met at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Young graduated with her doctorate in 1940. She then taught as an assistant professor at Shaw University and the North Carolina College for Negroes.
Young hospitalized herself in the mid-1950’s for mental health problems. She died in New Orleans, Louisiana on November 9, 1964.