THIS BOOK WAS INSPIRED by childhood memories of the civil rights movement. As a child growing up in South Central Los Angeles, I was fortunate to attend schools in Compton, California, where Black people were the principals and teachers. This experience provided me with a sense of pride and an understanding of my Black heritage and community. Within this context, I was aware of the struggle for freedom and can still recall the emotional feelings sweeping over me while listening to Martin Luther King's speeches on the television.
My family had long endured the struggles against racism; my father's family is still in possession of my great-great grandmother's freedom papers. My father grew up poor but managed to obtain a college education through the G.I. Bill. But his bachelor's degree in biochemistry did not translate into a better job until after the civil rights movement. He, as well as many of my educated aunts and uncles, survived by taking any job he could get. My father, for example, was employed as a cafeteria bus boy, and my aunt worked in the post office. In the late 195os and the early 1960s, it was not unusual to find Black people with PH.D.S working in the post office.
I can still recall the many sacrifices my parents made for our survival. Equally vivid are the memories of a family vacation in the South and my parent's fear when we made a wrong turn onto a backwoods road in Texas. Lynchings, rapes, and murders on such roads were prevalent at that time, and the fear did not subside