Magazine article The New Yorker

Class Report

Magazine article The New Yorker

Class Report

Article excerpt

When the news came, not late on Tuesday night, we did some hugs and high fives at my place, drank a little champagne, and dampened up at the sight of Jesse Jackson in tears amid the crowd of a hundred and fifty thousand or so in Chicago. In bed but not asleep, I thought back predictably to Selma and Birmingham, Oxford (Oxford, Mississippi), Martin Luther King, Jr., and Lyndon Baines Johnson, and tried but failed to remember another name. In the morning, it still wouldn't come--an old college classmate of mine. His name wasn't far from mine in the alphabet, which meant that he sat close to me in a couple of classes. I could almost see him, and though I never knew him or exchanged a word with him, he had been in my mind all this time--and in the minds, I'm almost sure, of most of the 1,097 of us in the Harvard Class of 1942.

I found him again in an old reunion report, and filled in the blank: Lucien Victor Alexis, Jr., of New Orleans. In our junior year, he'd been briefly in the news, when the Navy lacrosse coach refused to allow his team to take the field at Annapolis, because of Lucien's presence as a player on the visiting Harvard team. Lucien was black--the only black player on the team, just as he was the only black member of our class. The Harvard lacrosse coach refused to withdraw him, but was overruled on the scene by the Harvard athletic director, William J. (Bill) Bingham. Alexis was sent back to Cambridge on a train; Harvard played and lost, 12-0. …

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