We’ve made progress since the early 1960s


Editor’s Note: In light of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Aug. 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech – this letter seemed particularly timely.

This story reminds me how far we have come since the civil rights movement began. In 1961, I graduated the Beth Israel School of Nursing in Boston. One year earlier, a friend and fellow classmate had graduated from the same program. She had grown up in the Jewish “ghetto” of Dorchester, Mass., and led a culturally sheltered life.

Immediately after her graduation, she was married. Her husband, a young, newly licensed optometrist, took his new bride to a Southern state to live.

Shortly after they moved into their small apartment in a new building, she wrote to her widowed mother and sister in Dorchester that she was very happy in her little home in the South. She was especially effusive in her praise of the laundromat nearby.

“Can you imagine,” she wrote, “the laundromat where I do my washing even has two areas – one for my ‘Whites’ and one for my ‘Coloreds’! Isn’t that great?”

My friend, now 74, looks back on her many life experiences and remembers her letter home to Dorchester. She is shocked by her naïveté.

Perhaps we have come a long way since then.

Ruth Perlow
Norton, Mass.