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Yale College Class of 1962


CONTENTS
Sept. 8, 2017

John Moses
"Incognegro"



Pauli Murray

Pauli's Risks




Necrology



Notice about Memorial and Funeral Services

 


PREVIOUS ISSUES

AUG. 15, 2017
Once in a Lifetime -
The Great American Total Solar Eclipse


JUNE 13, 2017
Reunion blinks

JAN. 16, 2017
Reilly, Spratlan, Stott, Freeman, Snider, Appell and more

DEC. 2, 2016
"Light" (the Sculptor) and Much Veritas

NOV. 16, 2016
Thoughts for a Monday: Let's Care for Each Other and the Planet.

NOV. 3, 2016
Did Salovey get it right?

AUG. 17, 2016
Reilly: Trump?
Rosenkranz: Debates?

JULY 27, 2016
"DARK" CONTINENT "NOIR" L.A., AND THE CHIPPER CONSERVATISM WE NEED

APR. 12, 2016
REMEMBERING BILL HAMILTON AND DENNY PHIPPS

DEC. 2, 2015
CAMPUS TURMOIL, BOSTON TEMPTATIONS, AND PARISIAN RESILIENCE
Boyer, Buck, Ravenscroft, Stott and Finkle on the recent events in New Haven, Paris and beyond.


NOV. 10, 2015
Travel issue: AUSTRALIA, THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST, INDIA, AND THE PENUMBRA
Proctor, Jackson, Hummel, Ravenscroft, Weil, Appell, van der Merwe


For previous issues, you can search by author's name and key content words here, or head over to the issue archives.

Yale62.org
September 8, 2017.
VOL. XVIX NO. 4


1. "Incognegro"

What it was like to be black and in our class
at a time before the Civil Rights Act


By Steve Buck

I grew up in a lily-white town. It wasn't till I was 27 and a Foreign Service Officer in Algiers that I had a real conversation with a "negro" (the term in those days), in this case, someone on a Fulbright.

For the past 15 years I've been a volunteer in the organization Boys to Men, mentoring teen-aged boys, most of them black. It's opened my eyes to a world I knew nothing of and led me to the question, what was it like to be black and in our class at a time before the Civil Rights Act?

Reading through our fiftieth reunion class book, I was touched by the brief, wry insights of John Moses on his experience as an African American at Yale. I didn't know John at Yale, but have gotten to know him through many phone calls over the past few years asking his advice on helping a now-adult African American mentee.

I visited John at his home in the Arundel on the Bay community on the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, Maryland, and asked him about his experience at Yale. What he said, musing on a status he described as mostly "incognegro," was revelatory for me.

When John moved to Arundel, it was all black, as was the neighboring town, Venice Beach. Arundel on the Bay is now almost all white, so John took me to Venice Beach, which is very important to him because his sister lives in the "family home" in a community dating back to 1870. Until relatively recently, it had been made up mostly of blacks who had prospered. On a two-storey wall in his own house, right on the bay, is a portrait of his great-great-grandfather, a businessman. John rolled off a litany of ancestors who had done well - almost all by "passing" as white, whether as a railroad conductor, or a doctor who, in order to practice, changed his "Howard" medical school diploma to "Harvard." John's father became a judge in a military court of appeals, and as a colonel was for a time the highest-ranking negro in the U.S. Army.

Prep School

John's parents sent both John and his older brother to the Mt. Hermon School in Massachusetts. John recalls hearing, but saying nothing, when a faculty member would often tell his class it would be inconceivable for blacks to be at Deerfield or Choate - "They don't have niggers there." The kids burst out laughing; John, referring to the more accepting culture in places where he had grown up, said, "for four years I felt like the whole world had collapsed. This was the world and I just had to live with it."

Another time the same teacher told his class "We had a negro maid named Claire White" and the class burst out laughing. John remembers not knowing what to do. Eventually, the teacher found out that John was negro and was mortified. John didn't say anything but went to the school chaplain for advice. The chaplain advised him that he could do anything in life and, encouraged, John decided to go that route.

Getting into Yale

John's cousin William entered Yale's class of '60 and eventually graduated with our class. The Yale dean of admissions knew John's parents and thought John was a star football player of the same name who in fact was at Deerfield Academy. The football coaches at Yale quickly realized John was not football material.

Payne Whitney, lacrosse, and spoiling the fun

So John joined the lacrosse team, training at the Payne Whitney Gymnasium, where going down the stairs he had to look at framed cartoons portraying blacks playing sports and feeling totally incompetent. In the large swimming tank room was a cartoon saying, as John recalls it, "If you're black you can't swim," and another one showing a black swimmer at the starting line and then at the finish line with a fish in his mouth. (Finally, in 1967, the cartoons came down.)

John played on the varsity lacrosse team and travelled by bus through the South to Florida, where they played Navy and John made a goal. All the way down the coach and the other players had a great time telling "Rastus" and "Nigger" jokes, almost all of which he had heard before. He decided just to hang in there, as all he wanted was a varsity letter and the "in" that might give him with girls.

On the way back there were no jokes, as someone revealed that John was "negro." Shortly after his return, in a scrimmage before the game with Army, one of his teammates came at him as he was jumping in the air and without leaving the ground hit him so hard with his lacrosse stick that John's helmet fell off and he was taken to the hospital with a concussion. John left the team, which could now continue to tell racist jokes. John only realized long after that he had been injured on purpose.

John Moses John and April, Spring 2008

 
In junior year a classmate told John, "You look like you have a suntan." John explained and the man apologized, saying "I didn't realize you are negro," but never spoke to him again. In another incident, John brought a black date to the college dining hall and Tom Luckey, being from North Carolina, got up and left. Later, John and Tom became good friends. (Ed note: John's entry in our 50th reunion book begins "Be sure to read Tom Luckey's book.")

Reflecting on all this, John remarked that when he heard that someone had said, "Do you know John is a negro?" it made him feel like a giraffe, dehumanized. Yet John said he never tried to "pass" as white at Yale. If people saw him as white, that was their business. Despite some of his experiences, he has very fond memories of Yale and is proud to have graduated from and benefitted from such a great school.

It pays to be Jewish

After Yale and a JD from Catholic University, John got a job with a patent law firm. His boss gave him a hard time about something unrelated to his race, so he went and had a chat with the senior partner. The man looked at his last name, Moses, and thought he would do just great with Jewish clients. So the man gave him all the secrets of how to do well in patent law. It worked well until Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, when John went to work and the partner was surprised to see him there. By then John had established a good reputation, and stayed with the firm until his retirement.

Living between worlds

John said he had no idea that he was "negro" until he was five, when, at a large family gathering, a relative, referring to him and his brothers and sister (who later went to Radcliffe), jokingly said, "Get those little niggers out of the house." John turned to his brother and said, "I'm a nigger?" The brother said yes. He then asked his mother, "I'm colored?" to which she said, "You're colored." He was relieved, as it was fine to be colored, as long as he was not the only one.

Later, learning of Stokley Carmichael and "Black is Beautiful," John discovered a very different narrative. Perhaps most important, he learned that he could be colored, because he had his community at Venice Beach, and, at the same time, work in a much larger world.

Thinking about it all, John concluded that for the most part, it was great to be "just another guy going to Yale." Though initially reticent about my telling his story, and while many of the events he describes were difficult and confusing, he remains a remarkably happy man with a wry wit.

Please comment here.


2. Pauli's Risks

Pauli Murray

A move from "Who the hell is Pauli Murray?"
to a proud appreciation of Yale's choice


By Bill Nye

Seeking answers to questions that had annoyed me for months, like "Who the hell is Pauli Murray?" and "Why a Yale college?", I invested one of my recent reunion Saturday morning lecture choices in the presentation on Murray by Donyelle McCray, the recently appointed Associate Professor of Homiletics (preaching) at the Yale Divinity School and a potential biographer of Murray.

McCray began her interesting talk by acknowledging that Murray (1910-1985) is "not very well known." And impressionistically shared aspects of Murray's colorful life:
  • that she dressed as a man to hitchhike by train and car cross-country with a friend in 1935;
  • that she was valedictorian of her law school class at Howard, but was denied the post-grad year at Harvard Law that traditionally went with that honor because Harvard would not enroll a woman;
  • that she fought Harvard's decision and made a public issue of it, enlisting support from, among others, Eleanor Roosevelt;
  • that she liked whisky, cigarettes and dogs;
  • that she was a "scrappy" and tenacious lawyer, using the courts and public campaigns on behalf of justice and civil rights;
  • that she is credited with the phrase, "One person and a typewriter equals a movement;"
  • that she earned a doctoral degree from Yale Law in 1965;
  • that she chose late in life to seek ordination in the Episcopal Church, but was blocked by the faculty of General Theological Seminary in New York after two years of study because she was "too argumentative," and so finished at a seminary in Virginia.

"Two happenstances upset my rather smug view."

What was clear was that she was an enormously brave person, with a strong commitment to being herself. Named Pauline, she took the name Pauli, and sometimes preferred to be called Paul. From an early age, she stated her belief that she was by nature both male and female, and did not hide her quest for self-expression. She was hospitalized for depression several times following the break-ups of romances with women, but as McCray convincingly argued, while Murray was subject to episodes of pain and even desperation, she never gave in to self-loathing.

I left the presentation with the impression that Murray was a brilliant, passionate, complex person, worthy of a good biography, but in my mind, not worthy of having a Yale college named for her. Her accomplishments seemed too slight. But two happenstances upset my rather smug view.

The first was later that day when I met by chance two men from the Class of 1982, one straight, one not, who had also heard the presentation. Each argued that Murray's struggles against marginalization -- as a woman, as an African-American, as a person of fluid sexuality -- and her integrity in the face of discrimination, rather than her accomplishments, made her an ideal role model for enough Yale undergraduates today and in the future to justify her selection. That shed some light on the limitations of my own thinking.

"A major player."

The second was finding a review by Kathryn Schulz in The New Yorker (April 17, 2017) of two new books about Murray. Titled "Saint Pauli," the review gave a thrilling account of her front-line involvement in the Civil Rights movement as a theorist, strategist, articulator and activist. She was not on the fringes; she was a major player. The article also filled in many more details of her bold life and her insistence on being responsive to her awareness of herself in both certitude and uncertainty. One is left wondering why in view of her influence, accomplishments and importance in the movement she was not given more prominence and is not better known. Because she was a woman? A woman of color? A person of fluid gender?

Pauli Murray
Schulz barely mentions Yale, and yet the article is the best argument I have heard for Yale's choice in naming the new college. A friend wrote about The New Yorker review, "Murray emerges as a pioneer in many of the issues Yale and our world have grappled with in the five-and-a-half decades since we graduated as an all-male, 99% white, generally wealthy cohort. Her life exemplifies the many areas, including race, gender, and sexuality, that still produce torture and require bravery. Naming a college for her is a fine, symbolic acknowledgement in permanent brick and stone of deeply unfinished business. I suspect that the decision was brave and tortured, too."

So I have moved from "Who the hell is Pauli Murray?" to a proud appreciation of Yale's choice. Pauli Murray College honors her, and it honors the university willing to lift up her person and her story and offer it to us.

Please comment here.



NECROLOGY

Sadly, we must announce the recent deaths of Scott Barksdale, Zoltan Bary, Felix Peter Dzwonkoski, Robert Lakein, Peter McDougall, Frank O'Reilly, Robert Palmer, Roger Terry, and Frank Wanning. In due course, their obituaries will posted on this site.

Thanks to the sustained, devoted work of Bob Oliver, now joined in this endeavor by several classmates, notably, in the past two years, John Stewart, you will find newly posted obituaries on our website here for:

NOTIFYING CLASSMATES OF SERVICES

If you would like classmates to be notified about your funeral or memorial activities, if we get the information in time the Class of 1962 will send information to the names on our class email list. Please ask those who will be in charge to send the details to Bob Oliver at oliver@moglaw.com, 203-624-5111, and for backup to John Stewart, Class Secretary, at johnhargerstewart@gmail.com, 845-789-1407. We will not send out information unless someone makes this request.


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