Black Women In The Ivy League: “Everything’s Not Always So Pretty At The Top”

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“I came to Princeton from Alabama thinking that somehow I would escape the overt racism I experienced in the Deep South. However, I find that this strange and quiet racism on campus is even more stressful and frightening. Here, they claim to love the race, but they don’t really like the person. It’s scary to know that these students, who will one day become the nation’s leaders, are ignorant towards racism or just simply ignore it. I feel invisible here, to my peers and to the men, and it makes me extremely angry and frustrated. I worked really hard to be here and will continue to make my presence known, but that doesn’t ease the feeling that I don’t belong here. When I see my beige counterparts staring at me, afraid of my skin and my hair, I know this campus is not my home.”

-Raven, Class of 2016, Princeton University


“I found myself not part of the “black community” which was interesting since prior to college my friends were predominantly black and Hispanic. A black woman entering Princeton can have such a culture shock. I found myself always questioning my body, as it did not fit the mold of the skinny white girl wearing a crop top and Jack Roger sandals. I also felt as if there was a clear distinction between black women who permed their hair and those that wore “ethnic hairstyles” and had natural hair. I can account that it was a struggle to meander my way through the endless beauty products in an environment that was not conducive to hair that was not blonde and pin straight. As for the relationships aspect, I think that black women found themselves adapting to the dating environment. Dating at Princeton can be great or horrendous, depending on what your preferences are. Many black women can feel insecure and doubt their beauty based on the dating culture at Princeton. I’m not saying that black women are oppressed in the Ivy League, but I think that many of their qualms and struggles are in part a result to a special blend of race and gender issues.”

– Gabby, Class of 2013, Princeton University


“I absolutely loved my time at Princeton. As a whole, it was the best 4 years in my life so far and I’d do it over again in a heartbeat. It was a challenge in humility and an opportunity to learn from some of the best in the world. As an engineering major, I was usually one of only a few women and most often the only black person in my class. I didn’t find either experience alienating but rather pretty empowering to hold my own as the lone black female in one of the toughest majors at one of the best schools in the country/world. It definitely prepared me for the (white) male-dominated culture of my job industry.”

– Cecily, Class of 2010, Princeton University

Writing this piece inspired me to collect more thoughts from my fellow women of color in the Ivy League. For more stories and insights from within the circle of women of color in the  Ivy League, click here.

Rana Campbell is a lifestyle writer from Orange, NJ. Send her an email at if you have a question about anything you’ve read in the article. Make sure to follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or for more.


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