First Person Singular

(Mike Morgan - For Washington Post)
Sunday, May 3, 2009

My first job in Boston was a summer job at the Boston Herald American. I was working in the photo department as kind of the gofer -- the one who processed the film and dried the photo prints, in the days when we did those things. I came to work one day and found a note, apparently for me, on my work space that said "Nigger, go home."

My first response was: I wonder who this is for? Honestly, I was kind of innocent about it because it wouldn't occur to me that someone would do something like that. And then I showed it to my boss. His reaction told me, kind of informed my reaction. Oh, this is really bad. At the paper, they had never seen anything like me. I was a black college girl in Boston practically on the lip of Southie at the time, where our newspaper office was, [but] they had learned that I didn't bite. And I seemed like a perfectly pleasant person. They were very apologetic. At the same time, they didn't want to fire the guy they knew who had done it because he was an older guy nearing retirement. So instead, they offered me a job, which I had no intention of taking. But it was the mid-'70s, and there weren't a lot of journalism jobs. I started getting my rejection notices upon graduation, and I went back and took them back up on their offer.

I didn't want them to fire the guy. I mean, it was a sad situation, and I didn't even feel personally attacked. I felt like he had done a terrible thing, but I didn't feel like he hit or in any other way injured me. In fact, he gave me the opportunity to work in a newspaper newsroom, which is what I wanted. And that's the perfect example of, once you get in the door, then you have to perform. No matter how you get the job, then you have to be the one to bring it.

Interview by Cathy Areu

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