The beauty shop was buzzing, outrage bounding off the mirrored walls, as I took my seat. Several women were talking about the 19-year-old who for more than a year had intimidated the black family who moved across the street from him in a middle-class Kensington subdivision. The young man had allegedly painted swastikas on a car belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Alexander E. Hyman, who moved into the neighborhood in late 1980. In February, according to an indictment, he mailed a letter containing swastikas to the family. It all seemed to fit into what officials have called a pattern of increasing racist harassment in the Maryland suburbs. "I mean, the NERVE!" began the woman in the next chair. "Why do they always treat black people like they don't have the right to move into the suburbs even if they have the money?" "At least the guy was indicted by a federal grand jury on the charge," I replied, "and if he's convicted, he could face a year in jail or be fined." "Well and good in that one case," she shot back. "But it's a bad sign of the times. Incidents like these are happening more and more. We've got to do something!" Her tone made me bolt straight as an arrow in the chair. I cleared my throat. "Hate and violence only get more hate and violence," I warned. "Oh, I don't mean we should pick up guns," she said. "I mean, we must find a way to drive home to white America that black people have been here since the beginning of this country. We have a stake in this society and a long history of being involved--meaningfully involved. Why, our roots go deeper than the Daughters of the American Revolution." By now the woman was being moved to the hair dryer. Her high heels clicked as she marched across the floor. She looked to be in her mid-30s and her head was held high in the air, giving an air of dignity and pride to her haughty march. As I sat thinking about the woman's anger, I remembered a quote from a book I'd just read about a little known black woman named Anna J. Cooper. Called "A Voice from the South," it was written by Louise Daniel Hutchinson for the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Anna Cooper was born in the late 1850s and overcame enormous odds, including slavery, to become an educational reformer, feminist, college professor, doctoral graduate of the Sorbonne in Paris and organizational leader. Anna Cooper said: "The part of my ancestors that did not come over in the Mayflower in 1620 arrived, I am sure, a year earlier in the fateful Dutch trader that put in at Jamestown in 1619 . . . I believe that the third source of my individual stream comes from the vanishing Red Men, which ought to make me a [genuine F.F.A.] First Family of America. " When the woman was done having her hair dried and we were seated together again, I told her about Anna Cooper and an idea of mine. "Why don't you get blacks all over America to organize and call themselves 'First Families of America?' " I suggested. "Every black family would be eligible because each could trace its roots to well before the Revolution." She thought about it. "It's so often lost on most Americans that most of the black people have been here since the beginning," she said. She noted that the kid in the Kensington incident allegedly had written a note that read, "NIGGERS get out of here." The woman said, "Shoot, that's just an 80s version of 'Go Back to Africa.' " But she saw a problem. "We'd have to go back six or eight or ten generations to trace our ancestors in Africa. People from, say, Italy can just go telephone their folks in the old country." "Alex Haley was telling the general history of 27 million black Americans," I said, referring to the "Roots" saga. "How all descended from African forefathers who were born and reared in some African village and were later kidnaped onto some slave ship bound for America or the Caribbean." The woman grinned. "First Families of America! I think I like it. Doesn't it make the DAR barring Marian Anderson from Constitution Hall look silly?" She laughed so hard that she held onto her sides. "F.F.A.," the woman repeated, getting into her coat. "Beats K.K.K. any day."