Through his lens as a “colored” child, “Negro” teenager, “Black” young man, and finally successful African American state official, this book reveals how Merritt was shaped by – and helped to shape – American history.
Jim Crow laws, segregation, and the civil rights movement are the backdrop to Long’s childhood and youth in Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s. As a child, the color of Long’s skin dictated what doors he could walkthrough, where he could sit on the bus, where he could eat, and what water fountains he could use. But like many other southern Black people, the powerful pride of his family and community steeled him against the incessant insults of racism. And, the civil rights movement helped fuel his determination to become an educated, successful professional.
His journey led him to become a widely admired community leader, a loving husband, and father, and a mentor and benefactor to the next generation of young people who struggle to overcome economic hardship and the still-present barriers of entrenched, systemic racism.