Technology and the Dream

Technology and the Dream, 2001

Author(s): Clarence G. Williams
  • Type: Book
  • Researcher: MIT Black History Project
  • Timeline: 2000s
  • Affiliation: Administrator

Transcripts of more than seventy-five oral history interviews in which the interviewees assess their MIT experience and reflect on the role of blacks at MIT and beyond.


Technology and the Dream grew out of the Blacks at MIT History Project, whose mission is to document the black presence at MIT. The main body of the text consists of transcripts of more than seventy-five oral history interviews, in which the interviewees assess their MIT experience and reflect on the role of blacks at MIT and beyond. Although most of the interviewees are present or former students, black faculty, administrators, and staff are also represented, as are nonblack faculty and administrators who have had an impact on blacks at MIT. The interviewees were selected with an eye to presenting the broadest range of issues and personalities, as well as a representative cross section by time period and category.

Each interviewee was asked to discuss family background; education; role models and mentors; experiences of racism and race-related issues; choice of field and career; goals; adjustment to the MIT environment; best and worst MIT experiences; experience with MIT support services; relationships with MIT students, faculty, and staff; advice to present or potential MIT students; and advice to the MIT administration. A recurrent theme is that MIT's rigorous teaching instills the confidence to deal with just about any hurdle in professional life, and that an MIT degree opens many doors and supplies instant credibility.

Each interview includes biographical notes and pictures. The book also includes a general introduction, a glossary, and appendixes describing the project's methodology.

READ INTERVIEW EXCERPTS in the MIT Press Reflections series, a collection of interviews that explore the black experience at MIT and beyond drawn from Technology and the Dream. 

About the Author

Clarence G. Williams is Special Assistant to the President, Ombudsman, and Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


As one of the first major works to record the experience of black engineering students in North America, the text is a milestone.
David C. K. Tay, Canadian Consulting Engineer

This book offers a wealth of insights on the experience of African American students at a leading university that no recitation of statistics could duplciate—before the students entered, while they were enrolled, and after they graduated. The varied personal accounts remind us never to regard any ethnic group as monolithic, while acquainting us with the special burdens that almost all black students experience in a predominantly white university. For anyone concerned with student affairs or affirmative action, this is a valuable, informative volume.
Derek Bok, The 300th Anniversary University Professor, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Harvard president Derek Bok once said that recruiting and promoting black faculty was like being confronted with a great block of inertia. Here, in the MIT story from Dr. Clarence Williams, is the best account so far of how and why established academic departments at another great university fail to hire or tenure even the most gifted black scholars and teachers.
Theodore Cross, Editor, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

Technology and the Dream: Reflections on the MIT Experience, 1950-1999 is a MUST READ for anyone interested in effective recruitment and retention of underrepresented segments of our society at highly selective universities. Univeristy administrators, faculty, prospective students, parents, high school teachers and college counselors can all benefit from this book. Descriptions from students of their individual experiences and real insight from key administrators separate this book from the simplistic, aggregated assertions about intelligence and motivation being published elsewhere.
James I. Cash, Jr., James E. Robison Professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean, Publication Activities, Harvard Business School

This extraordinary compilation of reflections on the black experience at MIT offers a personal voice to a history that is still unfolding. Clarence Williams' introductory essay, which details the history of determined efforts by a great university to become more invlusive, is a high compliment to MIT yet is not self-congratulatory. There are lessons here for everyone interested in broadening educational opportunity in America.
Willam G. Bowen, President, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; President-Emeritus, Princeton University

Technology and the Dream: Reflections on the Black Experience at MIT, 1941–1999 is a must for anyone interested in promoting diversity at a major higher education institution. It is also a valuable collection of MIT's efforts to increase African American presence. I highly recommend it.
Julius L. Chambers, Chancellor, North Carolina Central University

Williams, Clarence G. Technology and the Dream: Reflections on the Black Experience at MIT, 1941-1999. Cambridge, MA, MIT: 2001.