Conversations With Our Past
S. Mitra Kalita writes to Julia Baxter Bates

I am impressed that you persevered, Julia. There are so many moments when you were knocked down. That ability to get up and stand and be. Your presence alone was such a statement.

I identify with you. I was born to Indian immigrants in Brooklyn, New York, but I have lived overseas and in the United States. Like you, I can’t be put into one category.

I think the very definition of challenging mainstream institutions is that you are trying to change them not just to include people like you, but to define themselves with people like you.

Rutgers forces you to define your path within a very, very large organization. If you can do that, it’s pretty good training for life.

I find myself in this position of being neither black nor white—which makes me fascinated by both groups. Is that something you went through, that feeling of being in both worlds?

When I left Rutgers, people would say, “You’re about to go out into the real world.” I would say, “Well, I think I’ve been in it.”

I met all these people who had gotten into the Ivy League, but they came to Rutgers because it was what they could afford. And they were determined. That college degree was not taken for granted.

Somebody once said that the revolution is a very lonely place. You were a trailblazer in making a place for so many people behind you. Rare is there a description of Rutgers without the word “diverse.” That might be unimaginable to you. But it’s because of you that it became possible.

S. Mitra Kalita
RC’98, SCILS’98

Rising Star
Kalita is vice president for programming at CNN Digital; she was formerly at the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal.

She’s the author of three books on migration and globalization and speaks seven languages.

Rave Reviews
Kalita was a Henry Rutgers Scholar, graduated Phi Beta Kappa (and magna cum laude), and was the first minority editor in chief of the Targum.

The Prize
She was part of a 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the Los Angeles Times that covered the 2015 San Bernardino shooting and terror investigation that followed.

Julia Baxter Bates

Bates, the first African-American graduate of New Jersey College for Women, was mistaken for a white student on her college application and, once her identity was known, was advised to apply to another college where she would be “more comfortable.” She graduated magna cum laude.

Just Cause
She directed the research staff at the headquarters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Legal Landamark
Bates coauthored the winning brief in Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court case outlawing segregation in public education.

In Honor Of
A fellowship was established in Bates’s name in 1992 and is awarded to a graduating student at Douglass Residential College.

Rare Company
Bates was inducted into the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 1996. She died in 2003 at age 86.