Native-son artist Al Bright recalls childhood lesson learned in segregated Youngstown
About 100 Valley residents gathered Tuesday night to focus on “Remembering What is Civil and Doing What is Right” in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill into law July 2, 1964, 50 years ago today.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee of the Mahoning Valley sponsored the commemoration and conversation at Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor, 151 W. Wood St.
Al Bright, artist and retired Youngstown State University professor, shared a personal insight into discrimination and segregation that he experienced as a child.
“It made me a stronger human being,” he said.
He recalled Little League beginning in 1951 in Youngstown for 8- to 12-year-old boys, sponsored by the Uptown Kiwanis Cub. “I played on one of the first teams,” Bright said. “I was the only African American.”
To celebrate a winning season, the team went to South Side Pool for a picnic. But the pool manager shunned the 11-year-old Bright, barring him from entry and telling him if he would touch the water, the pool would be drained. Bright, brought up with a religious background at Tabernacle Baptist Church, deferred to the elder white man.
“Mrs. Mulligan was the only one with courage to talk to the pool manager about letting me come in,” Bright recalled. When the manager relented, Bright’s teammates pulled him around the pool in a dingy. “I looked everyone in the eye and no one looked back,” he said. He then was forced outside the pool area.
“I left a totally different person,” Bright said. “I came a hero and left a pariah.”
But Bright didn’t want retaliation. “I felt sorry for the people who didn’t stand up,” he said. “I’ve modeled myself so no one could come at me with that kind of stupidity again.
“It was a life-changing experience,” he said.
Read the complete story in Wednesday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.