Today and throughout February, I am posting brief excerpts from my upcoming memoir, “Coming Full Circle — From Jim Crow to Journalism.”
As a freshman in the late 1960s, our world was changing from Jim Crow to the Civil Rights Movement. Before we arrived, Spelman students had a history of being active in local civil rights activities, sitting in at lunch counters, marching, protesting, picketing with signs, organizing in SNCC and some of them going to jail for their bold stand for equality.
One student in the movement was writer Alice Walker, who attended Spelman in 1961-1963 and in 1965 graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Walker demonstrated and was arrested for her protests while she was a student at Spelman.
Years later, as a senior editor at USA Today I encountered Walker, author of The Color Purple, the 1983 Pulitzer Prize winning book later adapted into a film and musical. I was in the conference room running a news meeting when I looked up and through the glass wall I saw Walker standing in front of the reception desk having a conversation with Dixie Vereen, who then was the photo director for USA Weekend, a sister magazine publication in our company. Dixie had taken the Weekend cover photo of Walker some years before that, and when Walker came to visit, Dixie brought her to our suite of offices to see the huge framed and mounted picture that hung there.
Of course, as soon as I saw the two of them I excused myself from the meeting to go and meet our guest, to let her know I was a Spelman graduate, and to make sure she knew that Stacy Brown, the young lady working at the reception desk was also a Spelman graduate, someone I hired right out of school to give her a start in the business world.
Some time after that, Dixie Vereen came to my house for a party or a dinner and she brought with her a smaller framed copy of the same photo of Alice Walker, who in the picture has her legs stretched out on a beautifully painted bench in front of a well-lit bay window. Decades later the picture still hangs in my home.
Next: A clash of cultures