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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 in Louisiana in the 1950s was black religion. Sunday morning was more than simply a time of worship. It was a time of shaping one’s values and learning how to use them, a time of developing a sense of personal identity that could withstand the attacks on the dignity and humanity of those the customs and traditions were shaped to intentionally underdevelop. This chapter tells the story of the refusal to be consumed by hate and the development of the emotional and spiritual intelligence that fostered the drive to succeed against overwhelming odds.

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