To Our Readers:

We welcome comments on topics discussed in the Hamilton Alumni Review or on any subject of possible interest to the Hamilton community. Letters that are brief and to the point will be given priority, as will letters written solely to the ­editor. Letters will be published to the extent that space permits. Our policy is to publish as many letters on any given topic as is necessary to fully explore reader opinions and then move on to new topics. Letters may be mailed or e-mailed to ­editor@hamilton.edu. We reserve the right to edit for style, clarity or length.


As the 89-year-old widow of Daniel H. Smith, who was black and a 1942 graduate of Hamilton, I read with particular interest “The Diversity of Diversity” article in the Hamilton Alumni Review Spring 2010 issue. Daniel understood from his father that he (his father) was an Oneida Native American brought up on an Indian reservation. This I have found no record of. Daniel’s mother, listed as black, died when he was a year old, soon after the birth of his brother. Like the early 1920s black students mentioned, Daniel came from the Washington, D.C., area and was a student at Dunbar High School, the prestigious all-black public high school.

Daniel spoke to me of his appreciation and respect for his education at Hamilton. I remember him saying he was either the only black student or when he first enrolled there was another. He never spoke of any incident where a racial slur was directed at him. However, he never mentioned a friend or another student. His only complaint was that his family did not understand his need for an adequate allowance. Therefore, at times he felt humiliated having to pick up scraps of soap left by other students in order to bathe. Daniel was resentful as his family had money. His father was a college professor with a Ph.D. from Howard University, and his stepmother had a master’s degree and was employed as a professional. Her cousin was the first black general and another was in President Lyndon Johnson’s cabinet. The family had household help and owned a beautifully furnished home.

I met Daniel in an organic chemistry class at Howard University where both of us were trying to obtain that M.D., a dream our parents had not attained for themselves. Daniel later worked in a science laboratory at New York University on an experiment that includes his name for which his two supervisors won a Lasker Award. Already fragile, he felt slighted and sank deeper into depression. Fortunately, I went to Howard University School of Social Work where I did my fieldwork at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

I have always felt fortunate that Daniel went to Hamilton, as his knowledge of so many subjects influenced me to add to my growth at Howard University. Continued learning and searching, fueled by our educations, has me at 89 taking opera appreciation, Shakespeare, current events and belly dancing. Our three adult children, three adult grandchildren and a great-grandson are happy and doing well.

Vivian Smith
New York, N.Y.


I read with interest the article on racism at Hamilton in the early days (“African-American students in 1920s ‘not to be insulted’,” Spring 2010). Unfortunately, Hamilton remained a racist institution for a good many years thereafter. When I arrived at Hamilton with the Class of 1950, the College appeared to be taking one black per class. Elton Francis ’45, a student leader of that day, once asked the dean of admission about this apparent policy. His response was to the effect of, “Oh no, we’d take as many as three Negroes (as the term was then) in each class.” No fraternity, as they existed then, would take blacks, and many would not take Jews either. Coming from a leftish family, I was programmed to confront this issue. I gathered a handful of like-minded members of my fraternity, ELS, and we proposed pledging one of the three or four blacks on campus. He was voted down twice before we finally persuaded a majority of the house to pledge him. Needless to say, he was quickly accepted for who he was, and there were no problems. Regrettably, the other fraternities breathed a sigh of relief: ELS would take care of the racial problem.

Thereafter, through the time I remained at Hamilton, ELS had a moral crisis over incoming black students. In sum, as late as the 1950s, the majority of Hamilton students did not want to associate with blacks. It was not until the 1960s and the 1970s, when attitudes in America were changing, that Hamilton was really willing to accept blacks on an equal basis. Hamilton was not in the forefront, but in the ruck.

James Lincoln Collier ’50
New York, N.Y.

Editor’s Note: Jim Collier has written several award-winning works of historical fiction for children and numerous books on jazz, including biographies of Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. He is an accomplished jazz musician who plays trombone professionally.


Thank you for your article about African-American students in the 1920s (Spring 2010) by Maurice Isserman. It is rare that an institution acknowledges its history of racism.
I’d like to add a little to this history from the years that I was at Hamilton (1958-62). As at many colleges during that time, racism and anti-Semitism were quite common. Hamilton’s entire social life was centered around fraternities and one eating club, Squires. As I remember it, only three or four of the fraternities and Squires accepted blacks or Jews (I’m not sure about Catholics). With the exception of the Emerson Literary Society, the houses that accepted blacks and Jews were “down the Hill” and made of wood. The other houses were on the Hill and made of stone. In addition to the racial make-up of the fraternities, there was a clear socio-economic class difference as well.

I remember a conversation with a member of one of the stone houses about African-Americans. I told him I liked and was friends with Carl (not his real name), an African-American member of my fraternity. He said that was fine, “but would you want your sister to marry one of them?” I said I’d rather she marry Carl than him. That ended the conversation.

Julian Weissglass ’62
Santa Barbara, Calif.


I just read the article “When Hollywood Came to the Hill,” by Donald Challenger and Allison Eck ’12, which is on your website (Fall-Winter 2009). I want to let the authors know how much I enjoyed reading this well-written piece. Recently I became interested in The Sterile Cuckoo book and movie, and I found the video at a local public library. I enjoyed it immensely, and so I started to research the making of the film, the author, the locations, etc.

When this movie came out, I was in junior high school. I remember hearing the song over and over again on the radio (“Come Saturday Morning”), and seeing some previews of the movie, but I never actually saw it. The few previews I did see at the time were still vivid in my mind after all these years, as they presented a glimpse into college life (and a gorgeous campus in the fall), which was pretty exciting stuff for a 14-year-old girl.

So after many years, I finally found a video and watched it. Now every fall, I start to think about it again and start hunting for stuff about it on the Web. You can imagine how happy I was to find this article by Mr. Challenger and Ms. Eck. Please extend my thanks to them for capturing the essence of the movie and its filming at Hamilton College.

Christine Stouffer
Cleveland, Ohio

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