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Record Number of African-Americans Named Rhodes Scholars for 2017


From left to right, 2017 Rhodes Scholarship recipients Cameron D. Clarke, Aryn A. Frazier, Christian E. Nattiel, Olivia A. Klevorn, Aaron C. Robertson, Ahmed M. Ahmed, and Cailyn L. Moore

( – To become a Rhodes Scholar, a student must be of “high academic achievement, have an integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership and physical rigor.”

To be named a Rhodes Scholar is to join a highly coveted and prestigious group of individuals who receive a full scholarship to study at Oxford University in England. It is among the highest honors that can be won by a U.S. college student.

Former President Bill Clinton is a Rhodes Scholar. So is former La. Governor Bobby Jindal and La. Sen. David Vitter. As is Sen. Cory Booker, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and former Fannie Mae Chairman Franklin Raines.

The Rhodes Trust recently announced its recipients for this year. And of the 32 slots allotted for American students, one-fifth were awarded to African Americans.

The scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, an industrialist who made his fortune in colonial Africa.

The first African American named a Rhodes Scholar was Alain LeRoy Locke, according to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. Locke, who became a philosopher and literary figure of the Harlem Renaissance, was selected in 1907. Many thought Locke’s selection was an aberration. That the committee did not know that Locke was Black when it chose him. The fact that the next Black to be awarded the Rhodes Scholarship did not occur again until 50 years later fueled such speculation, although the Rhodes Trust does not publicize the race or ethnicity of scholarship recipients.

Selected from a pool of 2,500 applicants to be named Rhodes Scholars are:

Cameron D. Clarke is a senior at Howard University majoring in community health education and biology who plans to study for a master’s degree in primary health care at Oxford.

Aryn A. Frazier, a senior at the University of Virginia, where she is double majoring in politics and African-American and African studies, plans to study for a master’s degree in comparative politics at Oxford.

Christian E. Nattiel from Madeira Beach, Florida, is a senior at the United States Military Academy with a double-major in mathematical sciences and philosophy. He will study for master’s degrees in comparative social policy and public policy.

Olivia A. Klevorn is a senior anthropology major at Yale University and will pursue a Ph.D. in socio-legal studies at Oxford.

Aaron C. Robertson is a senior at Princeton University with a major in Italian and a concentration on Afro-Italian literature. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in modern languages at Oxford.

Ahmed M. Ahmed is a biology major at Cornell University. His research is focused on the development of new synthetic strategies for producing polymers. The son of immigrants from Somalia, he will study for a master’s degree in organic and medical chemistry.

Cailyn L. Moore, a member of the football team at Texas Christian University, majoring in economics at TCU. He will study public policy as a Rhodes Scholar.

The 32 American Rhodes Scholars will join 63 students from 18 other jurisdictions around the world as Rhodes Scholars in 2017.

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