Portrait of Alexander Twilight

Alexander Twilight (1795–1857) was born in Corinth, Vermont, on September 23, 1795. He was raised by a white or fair-skinned mother, Mary Twilight, and a mixed-race father, Ichabod Twilight, who served as a private in the American Revolutionary War. In the Vermont 1800 census, the Twilights are listed under the racially ambiguous category: Others free except Indians. Alexander Twilight was forced to work as an indentured servant on a farm near his home from the age of eight until he was 21. 

Twilight entered Middlebury College in 1821 and graduated in 1823, one of 18 men to receive the BA degree. During his two years at Middlebury, only four professors and four tutors instructed the student body of more than 100 students. Elected to the Vermont General Assembly in 1836, Twilight became the first American of African descent to serve in a state legislature in the United States. Likewise, Twilight has been noted as the first person of color to graduate from an American college. While recent scholarship complicates the history of Twilight’s racial identity, the clarity of his achievements as a Middlebury graduate, educator, and statesman are undiminished.