It was the summer of 1963. Despite the heat and humidity in my home community in eastern North Carolina, life was as it had been for generations. Poor and totally segregated. There were very few job opportunities (except for domestic work and tobacco processing) and so within twenty-four hours after high school graduation, most black kids headed “north.”
I was the product of a middle-class family that enjoyed advantages compared to our neighbors. Mother was a teacher whose salary in the early years was about one-third less than her white counterpart. She was the granddaughter of a black slave woman and a white slave master. My father was a World War I veteran and a dentist. His humble beginnings were in Bermuda.
My parents’ experiences commanded community service. The segregated schools and public accommodations, the unwillingness of the white power structure to recognize African Americans as first class citizens, placed my community at the whim of the white establishment that was outraged when black people questioned the status quo.