A Personal History
WHEN ROSA PARKS was arrested in Montgomery, I was fifteen years old and living in Tuscaloosa, ninety miles northwest of Alabama's capital city. During the previous year, Autherine Lucy had attempted to enroll as the first black student at the University of Alabama in my hometown. When she actually enrolled, three months after Rosa Parks's arrest, white people took to the streets. Mobs rioted on University Avenue and around the flagpole downtown. Photographs of angry white students shaking their fists covered page one of the Tuscaloosa News, where I worked as a part-time sports reporter, putting together Friday-night three-paragraph stories about area high school football games. Also on page one, in a black-bordered box, was Tuscaloosa News publisher Buford Boone's editorial, in which he begged local citizens to remain calm and to avoid violence. Today it seems mild. But in those days, the clearheaded thinking and bravery of the editorial made the blood of white Tuscaloosa boil—and brought home a Pulitzer Prize.