Dr. Ronald Copeland and the Place That Inspired It All: Rochester, NY

Dr. Ronald Copeland and the Place That Inspired It All: Rochester, NY

Dr. Copeland was born on July 5, 1951 in Rochester, New York to two parents who had left Atlanta, Georgia, along with many Black people, to escape Jim Crow and its effects. This was also known as the Great Migration, which led many Black people to leave the South in search of more opportunity in the Northeast.

Born into a neighborhood that was predominantly Italian, Dr. Copeland learned early the effects of racism, such as the consequential white flight that took place during his childhood.

Like most places in the United States during the 1950s, Rochester, NY was not the most welcoming to Black families, even though all they wanted was an equal chance to create a life for themselves. As a result of discriminatory practices and laws, tension grew. Housing conditions became unlivable (only two affordable housing projects were built in all of Rochester in the 1950s), high unemployment rates for Black people, and overcrowding lead to one of the most notorious moments in Rochester's history.

Dr. Copeland in his Senior Yearbook

Dr. Copeland in his Dartmouth senior yearbook

After abuse and mistreatment, the last straw for Black people in Rochester was the arrest of a young Black man, which led to the Rochester riots in 1962. This was just seven years before Dr. Copeland was to attend Dartmouth. These riots lead to the peak of white flight in Rochester, as white inhabitants left in order to escape African Americans who had been making their way to the city thinking it would lead to better opportunities.

As a result of regional and personal discrimination, Dr. Copeland learned from an early age that society was a different place for him and not everyone would be accepting of him even if he was just a kid trying to find his way.

An Interview with Dr. Ronald Copeland

The interview below is only a portion Dr. Copeland's life story. In it he discusses everything from his childhood, his path to Dartmouth, and snippets from his four years on the Hanover campus. Though there were ups and downs during his time at Dartmouth, it is clear that this campus helped him cultivate his already thriving passion for activism and giving black people a voice.