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October 27, 2006

Smith's Annual Cromwell Day Series to Explore Science, Race and the Historical Contributions of Minorities

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—When Otelia Cromwell graduated from Smith College in 1900, becoming the first African American to do so, she helped open the door for minorities seeking access to high-quality education.

But in more than a century since she collected her diploma, despite general progress by minority populations in accessing education, and despite their countless contributions to science, art, and our cultural canon, minorities — particularly African Americans — are inordinately under-represented in the historical record.

This year’s Otelia Cromwell Day series of lectures and workshops, with the theme “Science, Race, and Society,” explores the ethics of science and ways in which racial discrimination has resulted in exclusion from recognition of minorities in our country’s scientific history. The series also analyzes ethical issues around the term “race,” such as how it has been, and continues to be, defined and characterized in a variety of ways by philosophers, scientists and social historians.

All Otelia Cromwell events are free, open to the public and wheelchair-accessible. Attendees who need disability accommodations or sign language interpretation should call (413) 585-2071 (voice or TTY), or send e-mail to The following events are planned:


7:30 p.m., Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall

Opening panel: “The Science of Ethics and Race.” Participants Isaac Mwase, Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care; Albert Mosley, philosophy, Smith; Alan Goodman, president, American Anthropological Association; and Robert Dorit (moderator), biological sciences, Smith, will debate the validity of defining race from biological perspectives, and the limitations of using racial concepts.


7:30 p.m., Neilson Library Browsing Room

Panel discussion: “Magical Negroes: Narrative, Identity and the Future.” Panelists, led by Andrea Hairston, professor of theater at Smith, will explore character and caricature as they contribute over time to accepted societal definitions of race and gender through repetition and iteration.


1 p.m., Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage Hall

Keynote lecture: “Environmental Justice: The 21st Century Civil Rights Challenge of our Time.” Vernice Miller-Travis, executive director, Groundwork USA, a coalition of nonprofit organizations that help communities overcome negative environmental impact, will discuss the connectedness between environmental protection and civil rights protections for all communities in the 21st century.

2:30-4:30 p.m., McConnell Hall, Otelia Cromwell Day Workshops

Room 102: “Designer Genes: The Practice and Ethics of Reproductive Technologies.” Facilitated by Pat Shipman, biological anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, and Smith College Class of 1970, this workshop will focus on the social and political implications of recent advances in gene therapy.

Room 103: “Race, Health, and the Environment: The Gulf Coast after Katrina.” A discussion on the environmental impact of Hurricane Katrina, the government’s response, current community efforts, and ideas of ways to take action.

Room B15: “Coloring the History of Science: Reclaiming Extraordinary Contributors.” Facilitator Thomas Weiner, supervising teacher at the Smith College Campus School, will lead Campus School sixth-grade students in sharing what they learned studying “African American Contributions to American Culture.”

Room B05: “Breaking Out of the Caricature Warehouse.” Panelists will discuss ideas for discussing identity without adding to false or incomplete definitions.


4-6 p.m., Theater T14 (Green Room), Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts

Readings: “Talking to Tomorrow: Black Women Speculative Writers.” Writers Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Sheree Renee Thomas, Nalo Hopkinson and Nisi Shawl.


After graduating from Smith, Otelia Cromwell became a professor and chair of the English Language and Literature Department at Miner Teachers College in Washington, D.C. The author of three books and many articles, Cromwell received an honorary degree from Smith in 1950.

Otelia Cromwell Day was established in 1989 by Smith President Emeritus Mary Maples Dunn to provide the college community with an opportunity for further education and reflection about issues of diversity and racism.

For more information, consult


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Marti Hobbes
News Assistant
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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