Years of Rage
With a chicken sandwich for lunch, $100 hidden in a pair of red socks, and a suitcase laden with books instead of clothing, Thomas boarded a train with his friend Robert DeShay in Savannah in August 1968 and headed north. In what had become the archetypal black journey north, his father had taken the same route and mode of transportation to Philadelphia nineteen years before. But the freedom M.C. sought up north was, in Clarence's view, at the expense of his family, and destructive. His son desired only the intellectual and economic liberty that came from higher education. The only casualty of Clarence's journey out of Georgia would be his poverty.
After spending a few days with DeShay's uncle in White Plains, New York, Thomas and DeShay climbed aboard a Silver Eagle Trailways bus for the final segment of the journey to Holy Cross. As the bus streaked through Connecticut, the driver mentioned New Haven to the south, describing it, memorably to Thomas, as "the home of Yale University." Night fell that Sunday before the two Georgians pulled into Worcester. When the bus passed Holy Cross on the way to the bus depot, Thomas recalled, "My heart pounded with apprehension, anticipation and hope." Illuminated by the lights of the campus, Holy Cross was, to him, "a shining light on a hill."
Founded by Jesuits in 1843, the college was an outcropping of attractive red-brick buildings terraced halfway up the hillside, later christened Mount St. James. The original plan was for the college to crown the crest of the hill. The draft horses used for the construction vetoed these designs, as they could not (or would not) carry their burden of bricks and mortar that high. Even at a reduced elevation, the college enjoyed a panoramic view of Worcester below and Mount Wachusett twenty-five miles to the north. Merely walking to and from classes and