Black and Blue at Yale--A Memoir
In the fall of 1968, my parents drove me from Cleveland to New Haven on a trip that took nearly twenty hours. We reached the Yale campus exhausted. It did not help that my parents were already tense, having watched inner-city Cleveland burn that summer. As a Head Start worker downtown, my mother had seen the emergence of a group of black radicals floating among the government-run programs, establishing political ties, gathering information—and hoarding weapons. When riots finally broke out, snipers shot at the firemen from darkened windows in the empty, rotten buildings. The next day, army jeeps and personnel carriers patrolled the street. My mother was stopped at a National Guard check point, and she cried. The great upheavals that had haunted my parents’ dinnertime conversation had arrived.
Anxious as we approached the campus, my father wondered whether he should put on a sport coat. He was surprised to see large crowds of mild-mannered parents, many of them in T-shirts, carrying their children’s clothes into the dormitories. Out in the large quad where freshmen were housed, there was bargaining for the old dressers, desks, and tables traditionally sold by upperclassmen to new students. The young arrivals smiled and waved at each other.
About the Author
Phillip M. Richards, an associate professor of English at Colgate University, is the author most recently of Black Heart: The Moral Life of Recent African-American Letters (Peter Lang).