In the Matter of Color: The Colonial Period

In the Matter of Color: The Colonial Period

In the Matter of Color: The Colonial Period

In the Matter of Color: The Colonial Period

Synopsis

Judge Higginbotham chronicles in unrelenting detail the role of the law in the enslavement and subjugation of black Americans during the colonial period. It is a moving book that should be read by all Americans who believe in justice and dignity for all.

Excerpt

This book has been "in the writing" for almost ten years. But if isolated personal incidents really do play the dramatic role in redirecting lives they often seem to have played, I have to go back for the book's very beginnings to a painful memory that comes out of my freshman year at college. Perhaps it was not the incident itself, but the "proper" legal basis upon which the personal affront was rationalized that may turn out to have been the seed out of which this work has slowly grown.

In 1944, I was a 16-year-old freshman at Purdue University— one of twelve black civilian students. If we wanted to live in West Lafayette, Indiana, where the university was located, solely because of our color the twelve of us at Purdue were forced to live in a crowded private house rather than, as did most of our white classmates, in the university campus dormitories. We slept barracks-style in an unheated attic.

One night, as the temperature was close to zero, I felt that I could suffer the personal indignities and denigration no longer. the United States was more than two years into the Second World War, a war our government had promised would "make the world safe for democracy." Surely there was room enough in that world, I told myself that night, for twelve black students in a northern university in the United States to be given a small corner of the on-campus heated dormitories for their quarters. Perhaps all that was needed was for one of us to speak up, to make sure the administration knew exactly how a small group of its students had been treated by those charged with assigning student housing.

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