What would the neighbor’s think?

Dolly Szymanski Fort Wayne, IN Both of these quotes are things my mother heard or said. The second quote – My mother said to me when I wanted to invite some college friends to our home. Some of the friends were persons of color Grosse Pointe, MI in 1959.


I didn’t think it was real!

Toya James, Albuquerque, NM. I am biracial (Black/White) and born in Cleveland in 1959. By “it” I mean race. I thought more people knew race is simply a social construct and that racism was something education erased. I have only recently realized how widespread the buy-in is in American society and that race was invented […]

Geraldine, thirteen years old, incredible courage

Sue Schiller, USA. Rather than integrate them, our city closed the public schools in September 1958. When they reopened in January 1959, Geraldine (I know her last name, I will never forget it) was the only Black student in my school. I will never forget seeing her walk down the hall during change of classes, […]

I was born because of racism.

Chelsea Lowe Boston, MA In 1959, my mother was engaged to marry a man who wanted a black best man at their wedding. Even though my grandfather had made a point of drinking from “colored” fountains when the family drove south to Florida, this was–you could say–beyond the pale. “I can understand an old family […]

My neighborhood was notorious for racism.

Julie Simon Los Angeles, CA In 1959, members of the Collins Park community (New Castle, Delaware) firebombed the home of one of the first Black families to move into the neighborhood. On the second occasion, the house was destroyed. Historian Yohuru Williams has written about this event and it is included in the Encyclopedia of […]

Mommy, will blacks stain the pool?

Nancy Bonnet Steelton, PA My question at age 6 (1959) when told that a black neighbor friend could not swim in the city park pool. I’m sure that according to the era I would have asked “colored people.” Later when the pool was integrated, I was shocked to see that Bobby’s color did not come […]