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CHAPTER ONE. On My First Acquaintance with Black Studies: A Yale Story

Houston A. Baker. Jr.

Subject Race and Ethnicity Studies » African American Studies

Key-Topics education, universities

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631235163.2005.00004.x


When my wife and I arrived in New Haven in the summer of 1968, the temperature felt like 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The sun showed no sign of relenting, even though it was mid-afternoon. This was New England? Where were the breezes and delicious blue skies? Where were the streets of Peyton Place (a popular television series at the time)? Where was the show's star, Ryan O'Neal, and the cast of complex white people with whom he was always in conflict? We had secured jobs in New Haven, and during final days of graduate school in Los Angeles, we had anticipated the landscape of beauteous hills, white-steeple churches, and bright streams that awaited. But what did we know? I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and lived in southern California and Edinburgh, Scotland during my graduate school years. I logged only two sojourns in New England during adolescence, attending summer camps in the Berkshires and visiting Williamstown and Boston, Massachusetts. Imagine, then – if you can – the awe, confusion, fascination, and anxiety that claimed us as we entered New Haven on a sweltering August afternoon by way of the Hill Community. The Hill Community was decisively urban, and indisputably black. Summer heat notwithstanding, people were on the move. Black men, women, and children sauntered, swayed, jumped double-dutch, and hustled on every steamy corner. “Holy cow!” I thought. “Where is Ryan O'Neal?” ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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