In 1967 or 1968 an African American Princeton undergraduate stood in front of a group of awestruck Black students at a segregated public school in Wynne, Arkansas. I was one of the wide-eyed students who packed the Childress School’s library that day.
I was a seventh-grader. I don’t remember the undergrad’s name, but the impression he made was an inflection point in my life. I remember the effect he had — a poised, articulate young Black man wearing a black varsity jacket with a big orange letter “P” on the chest coming to our rural hamlet from a thousand miles away, reinforcing that Black kids in the segregated South could have big goals.
His visit has stayed with me over the decades. He empowered me (and I believe others) to imagine beyond our circumstance and societal limitations.
I hope this letter finds him. It would be great to close the circle he started more than 50 years ago and let him know one of the kids he inspired in that classroom went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in urban studies, spending a career in news reporting and public relations. I am fortunate and thankful that at a formative time in my life, fate sent a young Black dream merchant from Princeton to help Black students like me envision new horizons.