Member of History Colorado’s State Historian’s Council and an Associate Professor of History and Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion at Regis University
Dr. Nicki Gonzales is an associate professor of history at Regis University. Her research interests include the American Southwest; the Chicano Movement in Colorado; Chicano social, political, legal, and environmental activism; and the history of land grant communities. She has served as an advisor for History Colorado’s exhibits El Movimiento: The Chicano Movement in Colorado and Zoom In: The Centennial State in 100 Objects. Dr. Gonzales is History Colorado's appointee to the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board established by Governor Polis in July 2020.
In preparation for Colorado Day on August 1, we asked each member of the State Historian’s Council to reflect on what “our beloved Colorado” means to them. Here, Nicki Gonzales reflects on her family’s place in creating her beloved—and in some cases bygone—Colorado.
On the evening of July 12, 1967, in Newark, New Jersey, two white police officers badly beat a black cab driver named John William Smith in the course of arresting him for a traffic violation. News of this spread like wildfire through the African American community, and angry crowds gathered outside the police station. Though Smith was injured, but not dead, riots erupted across the city that night. By the time order was restored on July 17, whole blocks lay smoldering and twenty-six people, mostly African Americans, lay dead.