Bobbie Reno, historian for the town of East Greenbush, New York, acknowledges the posthumous diploma awarded to Edmonia Lewis at Oberlin’s 2022 Commencement.
My name is Bobbie Reno. I'm a historian for the town of East Greenbush. That was once part of Greenbush New York, where according to Edmonia Lewis's passport application in 1865, she was born. I want to thank president Carmen Twillie Ambar, vice president, general counsel, and secretary Matthew Lahey, and the honorary degree committee for the invitation to be part of the Commencement ceremony to bestow upon Mary Edmonia Lewis her diploma in the ladies' course.
In 1863, Mary Edmonia Lewis was denied her diploma of Oberlin College due to racism. Today, Oberlin College recognizes the wrong and demonstrates the integrity and inclusiveness Oberlin college has, as an academic institution, demonstrated since 1833. I cannot speak for Edmonia Lewis. So I will state a quote attributed to her and let her speak.
Sometimes the times were dark and the outlook was lonesome, but where there is a will, there is a way. I pitched in and dug at my work until now I am what I am. It was hard work though. But with color and sex against me, I have achieved success. That is what I tell my people whenever I meet them, that they must not be discouraged, but work ahead until the world is found to respect them for what they have accomplished.
Thank you, Oberlin College. Congratulations to the graduates.