Law and White Supremacy: Chief Justice Roger B.Taney authored, arguably, the worst opinion in the history of civilized jurisprudence in the 1857 Dred Scott Decision, which gave license to whites everywhere in this country to commit unholy acts of terror and injustice against blacks with impunity. “Black men have no rights that white men are bound to respect” was its literal, practical and legal message. That decision left black families, slave and free, with no standing in the courts whatever - entirely vulnerable to predatory whites.  In the north, the civilized tools of racism - hiring policies, workplace discrimination, redlining, eminent domain and at-large voting - became the merciful, routine means to maintain white strangleholds over black lives. In the south and mid-west, whites arrogantly added the deadly weapons of murder, terrorism, expulsions, black codes, rental slavery, poll taxes and intimidation - to their racist toolkit, then brazenly used them to widen the power and wealth gaps between the two races. The St. Louis Riot of 1917 was among the greatest acts of terrorism in U. S. history. As many as one hundred African-Americans were slaughtered by whites. Like many such white rampages against blacks as ordained by Justice Taney’s infamous decision, nothing was done to prosecute whites or render justice to African-Americans.

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4th cousin Melvin Luther Watt received his bachelors degree from the University of North Carolina and his law degree from Yale University. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1993 and re-elected ten times. In 2014, he was appointed Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency by President Barack Obama.

Edward Richard Dudley was in the first graduating class in 1929 of all-black Lucy Addison High School that I attended.. Edward received his bachelors degree from Johnson C. Smith University and his law degree from St. Johns University.  In 1949, he was appointed Ambassador to Liberia by President Harry Truman, becoming the first black ambassador in American history.  In 1961, when I entered Columbia University, he was serving as President of Manhattan Borough. Though we were both African-American, from the same distant small southern town and high school, with the same last  name, we were not related.

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In December, 1962,  I met Lt. Cmdr. Samuel L. Gravely at the Debutante Ball in Roanoke. He was there as the guest of his brother-in-law, George Coleman, assistant principal at Lucy Addison High School and one of my mentors. Like Lt. Cmdr. Gravely, I was in Navy winter dress which caused him to invite me over to his table.  I later learned that he was the first black commander of a U. S. Navy combat ship.  A fellow Virginian born in Richmond, Lt. Cmdr. Gravely eventually became the Navy’s first and highest-ranking black admiral, commanding the 3rd fleet based in Hawaii.

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In the summer of 1960,  my brother, Richard, and I attended a National Science Foundation Institute summer six-week study program for forty promising high school students at  Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.  Professor Samuel  P. Massie, who taught the group college chemistry, was easily the most engaging and charismatic instructor we experienced.  Dr. Massie’s mentoring had a profound effect on my future goals and aspirations.  I later learned of his many lifetime achievements and honors in the field of chemistry.

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Early Thanksgiving morning in 1963, my junior year at Columbia, schoolmate Hilton Clark drove me to his home in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.  Because I had a serious throat infection and the campus was deserted for the holiday, Hilton, a sophomore, had kindly invited me to spend the holidays with his parents. There, I met his gracious parents, Kenneth and Mamie and his older sister, Kate.  Their estate was gorgeous, indicating a level of affluence that I had never seen before.  I learned that Dr. Clark was then a psychology professor at the City College of New York.  Much later, I learned of his pivotal role in the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision  nine years earlier.

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