Panthers fight for progress, celebrate City College’s black history
Juan De Anda | Staff Writer
February marks the celebration of Black History Month: a month that spotlights the accomplishments of both famous and unsung black Americans throughout our history.
Black Americans who are typically recognized for their achievements include abolitionist Harriet Tubman, civil-rights activist Rosa Parks, civil-rights leader and Nobel Prize laureate Martin Luther King Jr. and now our 44th president, Barack Obama.
Yet, there are those individuals who are not widely known: Ralph Bunche was the first black American to win a Nobel Prize, Hattie McDaniel, the first black American to win an Academy Award, Gwendolyn Brooks, first black American to win a Pulitzer Prize and Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first black American senator.
These individuals and many others who are not mentioned have been instrumental in overcoming racial barriers in a society where all people are supposedly created equal and are endowed by their creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These individuals have demolished massive walls and opened the doors of opportunity not only for black Americans, but for people of all races and ethnicities.
But now let’s ask ourselves a fundamental question: While these and other individuals were fighting, protesting, and marching for universal human rights, where was City College? Was it sulking at the sidelines or was it a pioneer in promoting racial diversity? Has City College progressed over the years to become a more diverse, equal, and tolerant environment?
According to the SCC Fact Book for Fall 2007, no one race was the dominant majority on campus. Whites made up 31.8 percent, Asians, 20.6 percent, Hispanics 17.4 percent, and blacks 14.5 percent of the total student population.
“Whenever you sit in a classroom, walk around the halls or hang out in the Quad, you see different races all the time,” says biochemistry major, Nadia Thompson.
But this racial diversity hasn’t always existed at City College . When the college was established in 1916, the first graduating class consisted of six white women. As the years rolled by, the campus was still predominately white with few students of color.
“The racial makeup of the campus depends largely on the inhabitants living around the area. As diversity increases in the surrounding neighborhoods, so does the diversity of Sac City,” says City College archivist Pat Zuccaro.
In the fall of 1967, everything changed. Sixty black students came together to form the Black Student Union for the “rectification and further development of political, economical, social, educational, and cultural conditions of the college.”
Within two years the union had started a black education program on campus. The program offered several classes pertaining to black American history and culture.
Members of the Black Student Union began demanding better treatment, held demonstrations, and helped to spur black students and professors alike to defend their rights. The student union opened doors for the underprivileged in the community.
With that in mind, as we celebrate throughout this month, and (hopefully) for the rest of the year, let’s salute those who may not have become iconic or famous, but whose efforts have aided in the fight against injustice and inequality.