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This chapter describes the challenge of growing up black in Louisiana’s Cajun country in the 1950s. Few places were more ethnically mixed than southwestern Louisiana, but St. Landry Parish was rigidly segregated and served as the seat of the state’s Ku Klux Klan. The deferential poses blacks had to strike in public in order to keep a job or physically survive sometimes masked an alternative culture of self-assertion that could be found in the black church, pool halls, and barber shops, and on street corners.

The one consistent moral force in the early years of African American youth growing up...

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