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A Realization Remembered

Reading the article about the course that was offered on the sit-in in Courtney Smith’s office reminded me of a course I took as a political science major in the late ’50s or early ’60s. 

Although most details are fuzzy at this point, I recall that it was offered by a young assistant professor named James Guyot and required that we conduct surveys of residents of the Borough of Swarthmore about housing discrimination, a major topic at the time. Swarthmore housing was segregated, though I don’t think it was because legislation required it. As I remember it, our task was to discover what residents thought of living in a community in which not all residents looked alike. Given the times, the focus was on race, but we included questions about religious and other ethnic groups and nationalities as well. We went in pairs, and I recall—this memory is vivid—sitting on the front porch of a brick house with the owner who told us that it was only natural that people would want to live with others who were like them. So he was not apologetic about the discrimination in Swarthmore. That particular comment was about Jews, and I remember being stunned by it but resisted the temptation to tell him that I was Jewish. In some small way, that experience made it at least a little clearer what blacks must have felt like when they were denied the ability to move into neighborhoods they wanted.

—Steve Davidson ’61, Brookline, Mass.