Permanent exhibit to highlight the history of Black students

News@TheU, 02-25-2021

With a significant gift from Johnny C. Taylor Jr., alumnus and member of the University of Miami Board of Trustees, an interactive display will spotlight the impact of the University’s Black students from the past, through the decades, and beyond.
Johnny C. Taylor
Johnny C. Taylor Jr. is an alumnus and member of the University's Board of Trustees.


Throughout his career, Johnny C. Taylor Jr. has sought to improve and mobilize social and economic change in the workplace and bring equity to employees at every level. It’s a passion that has driven him since he graduated from the University of Miami. 

Now, the president and chief executive officer of the Society for Human Resource Management in the nation’s capital is bringing it back home. 

Taylor, an alumnus from the School of Communication and a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, shared this week that he is all in on supporting a yearslong effort to honor the first generation of Black students who attended the University and to highlight the impact of current students’ work to build a more diverse and inclusive campus for all. 

“My history is deeply embedded in South Florida and in the University of Miami,” said Taylor. “My grandfather established the first hospital in Broward County to serve African Americans, a tremendously important addition to the community. Today, I want to take a step to celebrate the University of Miami’s first Black students, our trailblazers, and shine a light on the accomplishments of those students and future generations of students who are making a difference in the areas of diversity and inclusion.” 

The gift will create an interactive kiosk experience on the Coral Gables Campus that will highlight the past, current, and expected accomplishments of University of Miami Black students who are trailblazers in their own right.

It was back in 1961, three and a half decades after the University of Miami opened, that it admitted its first Black students. That inaugural class of 40, along with other Black students who enrolled in the following years, broke through long-standing color barriers, fought for academic and institutional changes, and in doing so, paved the way for future generations. 

The Johnny Taylor Family UTrailblazers Experience will pay tribute to those Black students, living and deceased, who graduated from the University during the 1960s and 1970s—as well as spotlight the contributions of present and future Black students. The outdoor installation will feature interactive touch screens displaying content created and curated by the UM Libraries University Archives. 

“Johnny Taylor is lifting stories that are an incredibly important part of the University of Miami’s history,” said Josh Friedman, senior vice president for the Division of Development and Alumni Relations. “We are extremely grateful to him and his family for making this extraordinary commitment.” 

Taylor has grown the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) to more than 300,000 members in more than 165 countries, impacting 115 million workers. He is a force in government discussions around workplace issues—from sexual harassment to paid leave—and is the chair of the President’s Advisory Board on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He also served on the White House American Workforce Policy Advisory Board. Prior to joining SHRM, Taylor held executive leadership positions in both the not-for-profit and for-profit sectors including, Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, Blockbuster Entertainment Group, Compass Group USA, and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, where he served as president and CEO. 

The Johnny Taylor Family UTrailblazer Experience grew out of an initiative established by the Black Alumni Society in 2012, following the University’s 50-year anniversary marking desegregation. Sparked by their own curiosity, several members, including Denise Mincey-Mills, Phyllis E. Tyler, and Antonio Junior—all 1979 graduates of the University—began to unearth the stories and struggles of the first Black students which, until that time, had been buried in the archives of the UM Libraries. 

Their efforts evolved into the First Black Graduates Project, which has grown both its membership and mission. The group’s goals now include weekend reunions, scholarship support for students, a trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D. C., among other activities.

On Thursday, Taylor noted the passing this week of Harold “Hal” Long Jr., a double alumnus and founder of the United Black Students organization, and an influential trailblazer at the University of Miami.

“His life and contributions to the University cannot be measured in words,” Taylor said. “He was a true Hurricane, and he will be missed.”