Between 1910 and the mid-1920s, more than sixty black students from the South bravely traveled north to Ferris Institute, a small, mostly white school in Big Rapids, Michigan. They came to enroll in college programs and college preparatory courses—and to escape, if only temporarily, the daily and ubiquitous indignities suffered under the Jim Crow racial hierarchy. They excelled in their studies and became accomplished in their professional fields. Many went on to both ignite and help lead the explosive civil rights movement. Very few people know their stories—until now.

This book explores the incredible resilience and breathtaking accomplishments of those students. It was written to unearth, contextualize, and share their stories and important lessons with this generation.


DAVID PILGRIM is a public speaker and one of America’s leading experts on issues relating to multiculturalism, diversity, and race relations. He is best known as the founder and curator of the Jim Crow Museum: a collection of more than fourteen thousand racist artifacts located at Ferris State University. A professor of sociology at Ferris State, Pilgrim is also head of Diversity and Inclusion.

FRANKLIN HUGHES is a multimedia specialist for the Diversity and Inclusion Office at Ferris State University. He is the primary content creator of audio and video for the Jim Crow Museum and also maintains the website and social media platforms. Hughes has been a member of the Jim Crow Museum team since fall 2011 and has written many articles for the museum’s website.