I grew up in Newport News during the tumultuous years of the 1950s and later graduated from both the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia. Like millions of others, I have watched the horrific events in Charlottesville and its aftermath during these past three weeks and, as one with Virginia roots, have paid particular attention to the debate that has raged over how the past is to be remembered. As a historian raised during a period of racial crisis in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, I perceive models of leadership from those years that are seared in my soul and that I believe should not be forgotten. They are illuminating and instructive for us today.
I grew up as an Orthodox Jewish boy born in 1947 in Newport News, Virginia. I was aware from my earliest years that Newport News had welcomed my immigrant grandparents and their children from the ravages of Eastern Europe when they first arrived in Tidewater during the early years of the 20th century. My grandmother was grateful her entire life to Virginia for the shelter it provided.