I read with great interest “Race and Redemption” (On the Campus, Dec. 5), and I applaud Princeton for creating the opportunity for such a trip. The description of the trip brought back many memories of my time in Alabama.
More than 50 years ago, I participated in the Selma to Montgomery march, joining the marchers as they approached the state capitol building. A year later, I joined the staff and faculty at Miles College, just outside Birmingham, as both a teaching faculty member and the special assistant to the president of this black college. The president, Dr. Lucius Pitts, took great pleasure in introducing me as the “house honky in the administration.”
During my year and a half at Miles, my ex-wife and I had numerous fascinating experiences involving overt and covert racism because of our association with the college. I remember vividly being asked to leave a Sunday-morning church service because a black colleague of mine attended the service with me. I also remember that the real-estate agent who sold our house to us, when he discovered that both of us were working at Miles, said, “I shouldn’t sell you this house, but I like the two of you. Our agency may well go out of business because of this sale, but I’m going to go ahead anyway.” Sure enough, the agency went out of business within a year.
I keep wondering whether my experiences would be of any use to students who take the same trip in the future.