Jennie E. Hughes Medal Oration, April 15, 1898

Overview of the Collection

University of Idaho. Library. Special Collections Dept.
Jennie E. Hughes Medal Oration
April 15, 1898
0.25 cubic feet
Collection Number
MG 5758
Winning essay in the University of Idaho Watkins Medal for Oratory contest, 1898, written and presented by Jennie Eva Hughes.
University of Idaho Library, Special Collections and Archives
Special Collections and Archives
University of Idaho Library
875 Perimeter Drive
MS 2350
Moscow, ID
Telephone: 2088850845
Access Restrictions

The manuscript group is open to the public. Researchers must use the collection in accordance with the policies of the University of Idaho Special Collections and Archives.

This collection is in English.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Jennie Eva Hughes, Class of 1899, was the first African-American to graduate from the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. She was born on July 20, 1879, in Washington, D.C. to Louisa and Alexander Hughes. Little is known about Jennie’s father, and her mother married Lewis E. Crisemon shortly after Jennie’s birth. The Crisemon family moved westward, first to Pennsylvania, then to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma), and finally to Moscow, Idaho in the early 1890s; they were, in fact, Moscow’s first black family.

Jennie’s registration card for her last semester at the University of Idaho, dated February 15, 1899, shows that she had been “prepared for college” in “Moscow Public Schools,” and she graduated from Moscow High School on April 26, 1895. According to historian Keith Petersen in This Crested Hill: An Illustrated History of the University of Idaho, Jennie “accumulated an admirable academic record,” winning the prestigious Watkins Medal for Oratory in 1898. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree, one of seven students in the Class of 1899.

Sometime between June and October 1899, Jennie married George Augustus Smith. Little is known of George’s personal history; however, according to Petersen, George was a “railroad employee who had speculated in mining stock.” In her book, Idaho Ebony: The African-American Presence in Idaho State History, Mamie O. Oliver writes that “George Smith from Georgia” was a miner in Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Mining District. In 1912, the Smith family moved to Spokane, Washington.

Jennie and George had three sons and one daughter. Berthold Augustus was born April 30, 1901; Amie, March 24, 1904; Leonard Wilbur, October 11, 1907; and Ralph Donald (Kenneth’s father) on April 4, 1911. Jennie died at the age of 60 in Spokane on August 19, 1939.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This collection consists of a typescript of the oration; a digital duplication of the typescript; a photocopy of the typescript; a clipping of an article in an edition of the Spokane, Washington newspaper, Spokesman Review, reporting on the 1899 medal competition; a photocopy of the clipping; digital duplications of two photographs of Jennie Eva Hughes.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

Jennie E. Hughes Medal Oration, MG 5758. Special Collections and Archives, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, Idaho.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Acquisition Information

Kenneth L. Smith donated the oration, newspaper clipping, and copies of photographs to the University of Idaho probably in 2001. Harold Gibson, then director of University of Idaho Alumni Relations, transferred the gifts to Special Collections.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Hughes, Jennie E.