History of Diversity at Lebanon Valley College: LVC's First African Graduate

This LibGuide was specifically designed to be used during the Multicultural Student Bridge Program. It focuses specifically on the history of diversity at Lebanon Valley College from its inception in 1866 through the early 1900's with some exceptions.

Alfred Tennyson Sumner

Sumner's picture from the 1901 LVC yearbook, The Bizarre.

Sumner is LVC's first African graduate hailing from Bonthe, Sherbo, West Africa.

He was born June 27, 1874 and died on June 29, 1943.

As an educator in Sierra Leone, Sumner went on to become "the author of grammars of the Mende, Sherbo, and Temne languages" (Wallace, 206).

Alfred's son was the Hon. Doyle Sumner who went on to become the Minister of Natural Resources in Sierra Leone. Doyle attended LVC from 1936-1938.

Source: Lebanon Valley College: A Centennial History, 1866-1966 by Paul A. W. Wallace

Sumner's School Activities


The year Sumner entered LVC according to his senior biography in The College Forum, but he is not listed in the 1899 yearbook.


  • Organist of the Philokosmian Literary Society
  • Conservatory student
  • An Associate for The College Forum


Listed as a sophomore...

  • Member of the Chorus Class
  • First Violin Philo Orchestra
  • Member of the Philokosmian Literary Society
  • Associate on The College Forum editorial staff
  • Member of the Devotional Committee of the Y.M.C.A.
  • President, Dr. Roop and Sumner attended a general conference held at Frederick City*
  • In the class’s “A Glimpse of the Future” it is stated regarding Sumner, “A.C.T.S. will be a missionary. Thousands will be civilized and Christianized by his efforts and he will be made Bishop of Africa.”


Listed as a junior, but 1902 is noted as his graduation year.

  • Member of the Chorus Class
  • Member of the College Orchestra (played the Bag Pipe)
  • Member of the Philokosmian Literary Society
  • Junior Rhetorical: First Division "Africa in History"

This list of Sumner's activities was complied by reviewing the LVC yearbook and school newspaper: The Bizarre and The College Forum.

*This perhaps refers to the 1901 United Brethren General Conference held in Frederick, MD.

Photographs of Alfred Charles Tennyson Sumner 1900-1901

A group photo of the Glee Club or Conservatory from the 1900 yearbook. Sumner is pictured on the left.

Another group photo from the 1900 yearbook. This time Sumner is pictured with the Philokosmian Literary Society (lower right) and listed as the group's Organist.

From the 1901 yearbook, Sumner is again pictured with the Philokosmian Literary Society (lower left).

Writer or Associate for - The College Forum

The College Forum, Oct. 1900, Vol. 13, No. 5, p. 1

Sumner's Graduation from LVC

Sumner's graduation biography from the school newspaper, The College Forum, June 1902, Vol. 15, No. 10: p. 161.

Sumner's graduation biography from the school newspaper, The College Forum, June 1902, Vol. 15, No. 10: page 1.

Google EBook Featuring Sumner

 If you scroll to the bottom of page 130 you will see Sumner mentioned as a 1902 LVC grad and it also mentions that at the time of this books printing (probably 1911) he was teaching at the Albert Academy in Freetown, West Africa which was a mission school under the United Brethren in Christ (see page 131).

Source: Negro In Pennsylvania: A Study in Economic History
By Richard R. Wright, Jr.


West African Life - An Article Written by Sumner

The College Forum, Nov. 1898, Vol. 11, No. 8, p. 121

Biography of Sumner

The College Forum, Nov. 1898, Vol. 11, No. 8, p. 125

"The story of his journey is touching indeed when one thinks of the self-sacrifice and indomitable courage which he manifested in overcoming the poverty which seemingly opposed his coming here."

What is a Literary Society?

"In most colleges of the United States during the nineteenth century, the Literary Societies were not only important elements in the students' social life; they contributed something essential to the intellectual atmosphere, supplementing the formal college curriculum by introducing a wide range of intellectual interests not directly handled in college classes" (Wallace, 55).

The Philokosmian Literary Society at LVC was started on May 3, 1867 and the name was suggested by President Vickroy.

Yesterday and Today

LVC has a connection to Africa via Sumner and others. To read more about it click the photo below and visit the LVC President's Report from 2010-2011.