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Kerry James Marshall - Better Homes Better Gardens

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A group tried to start a whites-only bus service. There was also a wave of bombings. The homes of two black leaders, four Baptists churches, the People’s Service Station and Cab Stand, and the home of another black were all bombed. In addition, an unexploded bomb was found on King’s front porch. ”2 Although none of these occurrences happened on Marshall’s own front door, they were nevertheless ever-present in the news and at home among the adults while Marshall was in his formative years. That small boys witnessed a part of this violence was captured in a note by Martin Luther King Jr.

himself, “... [O]ne cold night a small Negro boy was seen warming his hands at a burning cross. ”3 In the face of this increased violence and blatant segregation in spite of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Marshall’s family decided to move to Los Angeles when he was only 8 years old, just in time to settle in before the outbreak of the famous Watts Riots of 1965. “In the rioting, which lasted five days, more than 34 people died, at least 1,000 were wounded, and an estimated $200 million in property was destroyed.

An estimated 35,000 African Americans took part in the riot, which required 16,000 National Guardsmen, county deputies and city police to put down. ”4 Studies conducted following the riots revealed that, although officials had been under the impression that the riot had been started by people from outside the immediate area, most of those who had participated in the riot had lived in Watts for most of their lives and were acting out in anger against the all-white community for the segregation of the neighborhood.

In discussing these issues, Marshall said, “You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955 and grow up in South Central [Los Angeles] near the Black Panthers headquarters, and not feel like you’ve got some kind of social responsibility. You can’t move to Watts in 1963 and not speak about it. That determined a lot of where my work was going to go. ”5 Marshall freely admits that he comes from an African-American family that did not greatly encourage him to continue his education following high school, a cultural trait that he sees as being very prevalent among black families such as his.

“I came from a family where going to college was not encouraged, because it was never something that even came up in discussion. I came from a family who thought that you went to school until you got out of high school and then you got a job. I was the first person in my immediate family to go to college.

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