Janet Irene Thomas, Webster's First African-American Graduate | Webster University Library

Janet Irene Thomas, Webster's First African-American Graduate

Black and white photograph from newspaper, portrait of Janet Irene ThomasThomas attended Douglass High School in Webster Groves, Missouri and what is now Harris-Stowe State University. She then came to Webster and majored in music, graduating in 1950.


After graduation, Thomas taught music in the old State Hospital in St. Louis and later worked as a teacher and job placement consultant in the Special School District. 


She married her second husband, Chester J. White, in 1972. She died on February 22, 2001.


Thomas' admittance to Webster came a few years after another African-American student, Mary Aloyse Foster, was turned down in her request to come to the college. Foster was a graduate of St. Joseph's High School in St. Louis who sought admittance to Webster in the early 1940s. Despite support from a number of local priests and nuns, as well as the college's president, Foster's request was denied.




Le Berthon, Ted. (1944, February 5). Why Jim Crow won at Webster College. The Pittsburgh Courier, p. 13.


Irene White, retired teacher. (2001, February 26). St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p. C3. [obituary]

Kemper, Donald J. (1978, October). Catholic integration in St. Louis, 1935-1947.Missouri Historical Review, vol. 73, no. 1, p. 1-22.

Missouri college admits race girl. (1945, October 13). The Pittsburgh Courier, p. 1.

Westbrook, Ashley. (2011, December 7-13). Daughter of Webster University's first black student shares mother's story. The Journal, vol. 65, no. 15, p. 1. (read the article)