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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Summer Reading Program 2006
Life on the Color Line


Year Event
1943 Gregory Howard Williams, author of Life on the Color Line, is born.
1947 After being signed in 1945, Jackie Robinson breaks Major League Baseball's color barrier when he is brought up to the Brooklyn Dodgers by Branch Rickey.

On February 2, President Harry S Truman delivers a "Civil Rights Message" to Congress.

The Women's Armed Services Integration Act grants women permanent status in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

President Truman issues an executive order integrating the U.S. armed forces.

Late 1940's Skidmore launches recruitment efforts to attract African-American students.
1950 Dr. Ralph Bunche is the first African-American to win the Nobel Peace Prize

U.S. Supreme Court rules that segregation in public schools is not constitutional in case of Brown vs. the Board of Education.

Gregory Howard Williams learns of his black heritage from his father. The family moves to Muncie, Indiana.

1955 Rosa Parks refuses to give her seat towards the front of the bus to a white passenger.
1957 President Eisenhower sends the National Guard to Little Rock, Arkansas, to escort nine black students to Central High School.
1960 Four black students from Greensboro, N.C.'s A&T College sit-in to integrate Woolworth's lunch counter initiating a wave of similar—ultimately successful—protests throughout the South.
1961 Freedom Rides, led by the Congress of Racial Equality, tests compliance in the Deep South with the Court ruling outlawing discrimination in interstate bus terminals leads to several ugly incidents.

Gregory Howard Williams graduates from high school and matriculates to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

Cesar Chávez leads the United Farm Workers Union to win bargaining power for Mexican Americans.


Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.


The Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on color, race, religion, sex, or national origin. The passage of the act effectively repeals all Jim Crow laws.

Patsy Mink (D-HI) is the first Asian American woman elected to the U.S. Congress.


On February 21, Malcolm X is assassinated. On August 6, President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act into law.

President Johnson signs executive order requiring federal agencies and contractors to take "affirmative action" in overcoming employment discrimination. Johnson also signs the Immigration Act, which eliminates race, creed and nationality as a basis for admission to the U.S. Race riots erupt in the Watts section of Los Angeles after an African-American woman is killed by a fire truck driven by white men.

1966 The National Organization for Women (NOW) is established to fight for political equality between the sexes.

On June 12, in the Loving v. Virginia case, the U.S. Supreme Court voids all laws banning marriages between people of different races.

Thurgood Marshall is the first African-American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court (1967-1991).


On April 4,Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, TN.

Skidmore students petition then-president Joseph Palamountain, Jr., to "ameliorate Skidmore's racial inequality," recommending more aggressive recruitment efforts of African-Americans and an infusion into the curriculum of more courses addressing diversity.


Gregory Howard Williams marries Sara Whitney.

Skidmore collaborates with other regional institutions to create the Academic Opportunity Consortium, supported by New York State's Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), which made some progress on increasing diversity within the student body.

Police raid the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village bar catering to homosexuals, resulting in two nights of rioting and the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement.

The first African-American woman, Shirley Chisholm (Democrat, NY), is elected to Congress.

 1971 Skidmore students seize President Palamountain's office for two days, demanding greater diversity among the students and faculty, and additional courses on the African-American experience.

Title IX of the Education Amendment prohibits gender discrimination in educational programs or activities that receive federal assistance.

Human diversity is mapped:
In the early 1970s, geneticist Richard Lewontin decides to find out just how much genetic variation falls within, versus between, the groups we call races. He discovers that 85% of all human variation can be found within any local population, and about 94% within any continent. This means local groups are much more diverse than they appear, and our species as a whole is much more similar than we appear. Lewontin's work, confirmed over and over again by others, remains an important milestone in our understanding of race and biology. 
1973 In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court strikes down most states' restrictive abortion laws, greatly expanding a woman's right to legal abortion.
1974 Lau v. Nichols guarantees bilingual education A class-action suit by 1,800 Chinese families whose children speak limited English leads to a unanimous Supreme Court decision with far-reaching consequences. The court mandates that school districts must provide students with special instruction to ensure "equal access" to the curriculum. Significantly, the court distinguishes between treating students "the same" and supplying them with tools to put them on a par with other students. The case deals with language ability and public education; it opens up a new era in federal enforcement of equal opportunity laws.
1977 The U.S. government defines race/ethnic categories. In response to civil rights legislation, the federal Office of Management and Budget issues Directive 15, creating standard government race and ethnic categories for the first time. The categories are meant to aid agencies, but they are arbitrary, inconsistent, and based on varying assumptions. For example, "Black" is defined as a "racial group" but "White" is not. "Hispanic" reflects Spanish colonization and excludes non-Spanish parts of Central and South America, while "American Indian or Alaskan Native" requires "cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition" - a condition of no other category. The categories are amended in 1996, and "Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander" is added.

Skidmore establishes the Mellon Visiting Scholar to increase diversity among the faculty, hiring a black historian, Benjamin Berry.

In the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke case, the Supreme Court upholds affirmative action principles but rejects fixed racial quotas as unconstitutional. Bakke had been denied a slot in medical school and claimed to be a victim of reverse discrimination when a minority student with lower test scores gained admission through affirmative action.


Sandra Day O'Connor is the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.


The Equal Rights Amendment, which would have written into the Constitution equal pay for equal work, a guarantee of social opportunity and a ban on sexual bias, falls three states short of ratification.


Douglas Wilder (D-Virginia) becomes the nation's first African-American elected to state governor.


The first racially based riots in decades erupt in Los Angeles and other cities after police officers are acquitted in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, an African-American.


Gregory Howard Williams publishes Life on the Color Line.

On October 16, the Million Man March, organized by the Nation of Islam to promote solidarity and protest, takes place in Washington, DC.


President Bill Clinton launches a national dialogue on race.

Madeleine Albright's appointment as the first woman Secretary of State makes her the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S.

 1999 Skidmore's population of multicultural students increases dramatically, from the customary 10% to 14% of the entering class.
2000 To reflect the growing diversity of the U.S. populace, the 2000 Census allows respondents to check more than one race.
2001 Gregory Howard Williams inaugurated as the 11th president of The City College of New York
2003 On June 23, The Supreme Court upholds Affirmative Action in university admissions. In Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court rules that race can be one of many factors considered by colleges when selecting their students. The Court rules against University of Michigan's point system.

Skidmore's population of multicultural students increases to 19% of the class of 2010.

On September 20, Gregory Howard Williams addresses the Skidmore Community.