In “A is for Afro” in Mother Jones, Sara Catania recounts her years as a white student at a Catholic school on Chicago’s South Side that was all black, except for the Catania sisters.
This was the era of consciousness-raising and the politicization of racial pride, and at St. James race mattered more than anything else. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in 1968, eight years before, the year we’d all been born, and our lives were marked and defined by his death. At school assemblies, we joined hands and sang “We Shall Overcome.” No one wished for this more than I, though the verse in our version declaring “black and white together, someday,” with its resolution fixed on some eternally future date, was cold comfort to a child compelled to confront it now.
The showing of “Roots” inspired harassment from classmates who thought they should take revenge on the oppressor in their midst.