The Times They [were] A Changin’
RIT in 1964
Bob Dylan called it in his song, and events in the year of the song’s release – 1964, back up his poetic description. The Civil Rights Movement is at its height in the country. President Johnson declared a “War on Poverty” and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, abolishing racial segregation in the United States. The idealism and passion of the burgeoning youth movement was questioning traditional mores and traditional political view, and gaining traction on college campuses. In 1964 a thousand white college students traveled to Mississippi to take part in Freedom Summer and join black activists in registering beleaguered voters.
At RIT’s downtown campus, change was also in the air. Students, staff and faculty looked eagerly towards the new suburban campus under construction in Henrietta. RIT changed it’s school colors from blue and gray to brown and orange to honor the live tiger mascot SpiRIT, whose memorable presence on campus in the early months of the year had ended when he grew too large. In their own neighborhood, students saw and experienced firsthand the racial tensions fomenting around them. Some students were taking up popular causes, but the mostly traditional RIT students were focused on schoolwork in their professional programs and dreaming of graduation and jobs.
During a project to scan aging slides, the archives staff discovered many wonderful color photographs of campus scenes and buildings. Along with black and white prints, these images offer a flavor of life on RIT’s urban campus. Objects, original documents and Reporter clippings add to this view of RIT fifty years ago.