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Celebrating Black History Month

How a fifth-grade project revealed the story of Jesse Otis, Three Oaks High School's first Black graduate

  • 4 min to read
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Jesse Otis is shown during his time as president of Alcorn A&M College in Mississippi. He was president of the historically Black college from 1949-57.

THREE OAKS — Jesse Otis spent four years in Three Oaks in the early 20th century, but was forever grateful for his time here.

Otis lived at a local dairy farm and become the first Black graduate of Three Oaks High School. He went on to earn a Ph.D. from Cornell University, and served as president of Alcorn A&M College (now Alcorn State University) in his home state of Mississippi.

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Jean Curren’s 1947-48 fifth graders are shown. The class produced “And Still We Grow,” a project about Three Oaks history that contained Jesse Otis’ account of his time here.

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Jesse Otis is seen in this 1925 Iowa State University yearbook photo. He graduated from Three Oaks High School in 1920, and later received degrees from Cornell University.