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Bobby Jones was born in the outskirts of Jackson, Mississippi in 1948. He was the third son of a white couple. His family was well known in their town and his father was actually the sheriff there. The ancestry of his family could be brought back all the way to the beginning of the 19th century.
His great-grandfather, in the years of the Civil War, owned a cotton plantation. Soon after the war ended he went bankrupt and sold most of his property. The main reason was because of the freedom given to the slaves at that time. The family blamed the slaves for the bankruptcy and all the problems that came with that. This began the hatred of all black people everywhere. This hatred went on from generation to generation, eventually reaching Bobby.
Sheriff Jones was a loving husband and a great father. Everyone in the town loved him. He worked hard for his children to have everything they wanted and to have a good education. He not only was a good father financially but he also made it a point to spend time with his children and teach them everything he knew. Unfortunately he also instilled in them the hatred that his father instilled in him as well. He taught them that all black people are evil, untrustworthy, malicious, dangerous, and they would be of no use to them in the future. Bobby and all his brothers accepted this from their father believing that all he taught them was for their good.
The town Bobby lived in was all white. It would have been very rare to see a person of color anywhere near this area of Mississippi. Bobby and his brothers could have counted on one hand the number of times they saw a person of color.
In 1966 Bobby graduated from General Lee High School. He graduated top of his class and was being approached by all the highly esteemed universities in the country. His parents were very proud of their son and knew that even though they would miss him, the best education he could receive would be North. He decided to go to college in the Northeast, Columbia University. Bobby knew that he would be far away from home. He had never even been past North Carolina, let alone New York.
The fall of 1966 began his first year at Columbia University, but more importantly New York City. It was more culture shock than anything else that made him really homesick. He was not used to all the people a city had, particularly this one, and the various amounts of ethnic groups that lived in New York City. Bobby’s worst problem, because of the thought his father had set into him, was the thought of having to live in the same city as black people, and even worst go to school with them as well. He was never faced with this problem before. He was scared and annoyed that he had to deal with this kind of people and so he treated them in an unjust and offensive manner.
In all of his classes he had minority students. He felt very uncomfortable and in one class especially. In this class, one black young man always sat next to him. After a while he became less defensive because the young man never spoke to him or even did anything that would make Bobby not like him. He began to realize that as long as you do not communicate with them in any way, they would not harm you. This was a major step for Bobby.
Time went on and Bobby was becoming very comfortable in this big city he now called home. One day after class, without Bobby expecting it, this young man who always sat next to him finally introduced himself as Jermaine. Bobby did not know what to say. He thought to himself, “Should I ignore him? Should I tell him my real name, because maybe he might look for me? Should I be rude to him so that he would know never to bother me again?” He took a bold step and told the young man his name also. Then he picked up his books and left immediately. That night he could not sleep. Bobby began to think for the first time that maybe these people are not as bad as his father had taught him. They may have caused his great-grandfather to lose everything, but they never did anything wrong to him. He was not sure of what he was going to do the next day in class, because he knew Jermaine would want to talk to him.
The next day came and Bobby got to class early. He was very nervous, and showed it with sweat coming down from his head and his shaky hands. Jermaine finally came and asked Bobby why he looked so nervous. But Bobby did not respond to his question. Instead he asked him if he wanted to go for lunch after class. Jermaine accepted and they ended up spending all day together. They talked and laughed about everything. After that day Bobby was always with his new friend. He soon became friends with Jermaine’s friends, went to all the places Jermaine usually went to, and even had dinner with Jermaine’s family often. He was always the odd one in the crowd, but Jermaine and his friends made him feel comfortable, like if he was one of them. Bobby realized that all that his father taught him about black people was wrong. They were nothing like he described them, actually totally the opposite.
Winter break was coming and Bobby wanted to invite Jermaine down to his home in the south so that his family can meet his best friend. However, he did know how his father would react to a black man staying in their house. He thought that if he talked really good about him all the time he could eventually come down and his father should not be as judgmental about him.
He decided to invite Jermaine after New Year’s day and then they could return together back to New York City. He accepted.
After a long semester Bobby finally went home to his family he missed so much. Everyday he talked to them about Jermaine, his best friend, and all the things they did together in NYC. They became excited to meet Jermaine because they wanted to meet the friend Bobby was so enthusiastic about. Finally in January 3rd 1967, Jermaine came to visit Bobby at his home in Mississippi. Bobby picked him up from the bus station and took him home. When the family saw that his best friend was black they were startled. Bobby’s father grew so angry that a black man was in his house. Sheriff Jones told Jermaine to leave his house immediately. He also told Bobby to pack his bags. Bobby would not be allowed to come back home because no son of Sheriff Jones would have a best friend like Jermaine.
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