by Walter E. Williams
I was a teenager, growing up in the Richard Allen housing project of North Philadelphia, when Emmett Till was lynched in Money, Mississippi, on Aug. 28, 1955, and his brutalized, unrecognizable body later recovered from the Tallahatchie River. From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Roughly 73%, or 3,446, were black people, and 27%, or 1,297, were white people. Many whites were lynched because they were Republicans who supported their fellow black citizens and opposed the lawless act of lynching. Tuskegee University has the best documentation of lynching. It records an 1892 high of 69 whites and 161 blacks lynched. By the 1940s, occurrences of lynching fell to single digits or disappeared altogether.
At the time of my youth, today’s opportunities for socioeconomic advancement were nonexistent for black people. For all but a few, college attendance was out of the question because of finances and racial discrimination. If you were not admitted to the black colleges of Lincoln University or Cheyney State College, forget about college. I do not know of any student of my 1954 class at Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin High School who attended college.