Niagara Gazette — “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).
Our meandering conversations during the long walk back home from Grand Island where we had begun and ended our juvenile runaway adventure confirmed for me that as much as we had in common as young boys, our paths, had we continued our attempted escape from the confines of Niagara Falls, would certainly have taken us to very different destinations; I would have likely wound up at a Mississippi lunch counter sit-in while Tommy would have likely landed at an astronaut training program someplace else.
It was the early 1960s. With our parents’ blessings Tommy and I had been best friends since kindergarten at Our Lady of the Rosary School in the mid-1950s. We were definitely aware that we were not the same color; some of our classmates sometimes cruelly reminded us of the obvious.
We were buddies; our skin color really did not matter to us.
By 1963, on the cusp of turning a full-grown 16 years old, I had become acutely aware of what had been going on down south for as long as I could remember; it was impossible not to notice that there was growing opposition to the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v Board of Education desegregation ruling as the Civil Rights Movement began to expand beyond the classrooms to other public facilities, accommodations, housing, jobs and private businesses as well.
When Jet Magazine published the gruesome pictures of 14-year-old Emmett Till’s horribly disfigured body after he was so brutally murdered on Aug. 28, 1955, barely one year after the court’s landmark ruling, the terrible reality of extreme racism left a permanent scar on most American’s conscience.
The September 15, 1955 issue of the magazine’s cover included a lovely picture of a bathing suit clad Beverly Weathersby.