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It was the McCarthy era. Attorney General Tom Clark had just announced a list of fifty-six “subversive” organizations that were supposedly part of the communist crusade. My grandfather, vice president of the History Society at Tilden Senior High in Brooklyn, thought it would be a good idea to invite a few of these alleged communists to speak before the Society. The principal heard of his free speech series and shut it down. Grandpa admits now he was intending to be provocative. Nevertheless, he wrote a letter to the Daily Compass denouncing the censorship by his school. The next day, Grandpa and his father were summoned to the principal’s office.

My grandfather defended his position and his right to state it publicly. That’s when the principal told him that he knew the president of Brooklyn College, the only affordable option inner-city kids had at the time. The principal assured my grandfather that there was little chance he would get into the college unless a second letter was written to the Daily Compass recanting his charges of censorship at Tilden High.

My grandfather was torn. With a thick Yiddish accent, his father had always emphasized education. He’d barely let my grandfather do manual labor for fear he would like it...

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