A Lifetime of Inquiry
Frank Snowden Jr.
Both my parents were born and raised in Virginia. Although I was born in Virginia, I spent nearly all my early life in Boston. By the time I was ready to enter the first grade, my father, who was a civilian employee and personnel officer of the War Department in Hampton, Virginia, moved our family to Boston. My father made this move to the North to provide a more cosmopolitan environment, to get better educational opportunities for his children, and to escape the racial segregation of the South. The move had a good effect. He continued to work in personnel, but he also got into the military and eventually rose to the rank of colonel in the army reserves. In Boston I attended elementary and junior high classes in which I was the only Negro. I experienced no racial discrimination because of my color. In fact, my teachers often pointed to me as an example of proper classroom behavior. We lived in Roxbury, which was then a racially mixed neighborhood, as were all the other neighborhoods in which we lived. White playmates were always a part of my childhood experience.
My father had learned that the Boston Latin School offered the best background for a college education in Boston. At his suggestion, I took the entrance examination and was admitted. My years at the Boston Latin School were unquestionably one of the greatest influences in my life. The school, which was the first public school in the United States, was founded in 1635—a year before Harvard College. In my day, Boston Latin admitted only those students who excelled in elementary school and who passed a rigorous entrance test. Youngsters were urged to take the full six years by entering into class six, which corresponded to the seventh grade in the regular system. Such students were considered to be better prepared for college and for life. The standards were high. According to Philip Marson, a