Remembering When Morehouse Valedictorian Shocked Boulé At Graduation Ceremony, Renounced Rhodes Scholarship

Remembering When Morehouse Valedictorian Shocked Boulé At Graduation Ceremony, Renounced Rhodes Scholarship


Dr. Kwaw “Andreas Woods” Imana, Facebook screenshot

In 2000, Dr. Kwaw “Andreas Woods” Imana, the valedictorian at Morehouse College, made headlines and history when he took the stage at his graduation ceremony and renounced the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. This bold act of defiance stunned the audience, shocked the Boulé, and sparked a conversation that still resonates today.

The Boulé’ was formally recognized as Sigma Pi Phi. It originated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1904 under the leadership of Dr. Henry McKee Minton and five other professionals, including doctors, dentists, and a pharmacist. As the country’s inaugural Black Greek organization, the Boulé holds a significant historical distinction.

Imana, who had achieved a perfect 4.0 GPA majoring in mathematics, delivered a powerful speech where he denounced Cecil Rhodes, the namesake of the Rhodes Scholarship, as a racist and murderer of Black people. He refused to accept an award bearing Rhodes’ name, WUPR reported.

The Rhodes Scholarship, established in 1902 through Cecil Rhodes’ will, is one of the oldest and most prestigious scholarships in the world. It aims to identify young leaders who will contribute to the betterment of mankind. However, for many, Rhodes’ colonialist and racist history taints the legacy of the scholarship.

Imana’s refusal to accept the Rhodes Scholarship was a powerful statement against institutionalized racism and colonialism. It raised important questions about the values and ethics underlying prestigious awards and institutions.

“In a time when we honor our most prolific Black scholars, our most prolific Black academic achievers, with the names of one of the most racist and insidious murderers of Black people that the Western world has produced, let us know that we have forgotten who we are…Cecil Rhodes wrote and I quote ‘the native’s Blacks must be treated like a child and denied the franchise. We must adopt a system of despotism in our relations with these Black barbarians and establish an order with the right race as the ruling class’… And we honor this man,” said Imana.

He continued, “And we hear institutions brag and boast that they had this many Rhodes Scholars, they had that many Rhodes Scholars. If we recognize who we are as a people, there will be a better chance of giving a person of Jewish descent a Hitler scholarship or to give an elderly Black man from the backwoods of Mississippi a Ku Klux Klan scholarship than to honor me or any Black person with the Cecil Rhodes scholarship.”

Imana went on to become the first Black man in the history of the U.S. to get a PhD in Egyptology focusing on a Demotic text, according to WUPR. He taught Mdw Ntr (Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs), among other subjects, at Howard University.

Dr. Kwaw “Andreas Woods” Imana, Facebook screenshot, https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=740679539660725