Published October 8, 2021
The book is called “The Last Negroes at Harvard: The Class of 1963 and the 18 Young Men Who Changed Harvard Forever.”
Its author, Kent Garrett, born in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene projects, was one of those 18 young men. So was my friend Travis Williams. Kent called them “the last Negroes at Harvard” because presently the term “Negro” would be retired in favor of “black” and later “African-American.” I, too, was a member of the class of ’63. I am white.
In the book, I am mentioned here and there as a bit player in Travis’s story. Kent published our head shots from the Harvard College Freshman Register, 1959—two earnest young men, in horn-rimmed glasses, wearing jackets and ties, our hair cropped short.
Two years after we graduated, Watts erupted. “Long hot summers” became routine. I went to work as a writer for Time; my first cover story for the magazine was about the Detroit riots of 1967. The Silent Generation yielded to the Vietnam Generation. Travis became a reporter for Life. We would meet after work for drinks at La Fonda del Sol on the first floor of the Time-Life Building in Rockefeller Center.
It is now a long, complicated lifetime later. Kent and his partner and co-author, Jeanne Ellsworth, came to my farm in upstate New York to interview me for their book. We spent an afternoon talking about our class and Harvard and Travis—and Travis’s death. In the spring of 1968, he died at 27 of a cerebral hemorrhage at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village. Our classmate John Woodford, one of the 18, my then-wife and I flew to Durham, N.C., for the funeral.
Mr. Morrow is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.