We've got your greatest generation right here!


The greatness of Autherine Lucy: Autherine Lucy Foster isn't one of the best-known names.

That said, she came from the greatest generation. She died yesterday at age 92. In the Washington Post, Harrison Smith's report begins like this:

Autherine Lucy Foster, first Black student at University of Alabama, dies at 92

Autherine Lucy Foster, who faced racist mobs and death threats as the first Black student to attend the University of Alabama, and who was suspended and ultimately expelled by a school board that was unable or unwilling to ensure her safety, died March 2 at 92.

Her death was announced by the University of Alabama and by her daughter Angela Foster Dickerson. Additional details were not immediately available.

Although she was chased from campus after only three days of classes, Ms. Foster’s 1956 enrollment at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa was a symbolic milestone in the civil rights movement, occurring at what was then an all-White citadel of the segregated South.

The Supreme Court had outlawed "separate but equal," but this was a terrible time. The past wasn't even past at that point. According to Smith's report, those three days proceeded like this:

Ms. Foster, a shy graduate student who was then known as Autherine Lucy, was pelted by rotten eggs and ultimately forced to flee campus in a highway patrol car, instructed to lie on the floor of the back seat.

Students, local residents and members of the Ku Klux Klan protested her enrollment by burning crosses and smashing cars that were driven by Black drivers, with some demonstrators chanting “Keep Bama White” and “To hell with Autherine.”

“I asked the Lord to give me the strength—if I must give my life—to give it freely,” she later recalled, according to Nora Sayre’s book “Previous Convictions.” Journalists at the time took note of her resolve, with New York Post columnist Murray Kempton writing, “What is this extraordinary resource of this otherwise unhappy country that it breeds such dignity in its victims?”

"What is this extraordinary resource of this otherwise unhappy country that it breeds such dignity in its victims?" In his assessment of Autherine Lucy, Murray Kempton had it very much right.

People like Autherine Lucy were the greatest generation. Part of their greatness lay in the fact that they didn't lord their moral greatness around—didn't seek to be better than, different.

Dr. King knew where greatness came from. "Everybody can be great," he said. "Because everybody can serve."

Murray Kempton was asking an eternal question about the greatness of Autherine Lucy. Where in the world had her dignity come from? In Smith's telling, her story continues like this:

Seven years after Ms. Foster’s departure, Black students finally returned to the University of Alabama, with Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood registering in 1963 over the opposition of Gov. George C. Wallace, who made his symbolic “stand in the schoolhouse door.”

“Autherine Lucy Foster opened that door,” former University of Alabama trustee and retired judge John H. England Jr. said last month, addressing the trustees. The school overturned Ms. Foster’s expulsion in 1988, and she soon returned to campus, receiving a master’s degree in elementary education in 1992. She was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2019 and was on campus last week to attend the dedication for an education building named in her honor.

The people who absorbed the most abuse were the ones who displayed the greatest character—the greatest devotion to task. We're also happy to note the way today's Alabama trustees have improved on the ways of the past. 

The moral greatness of founding generations sometimes gets lost as conditions improve. Today, in that very same Washington Post, this astoundingly silly column appears, in which a member of the Joshua generation voices a long, ridiculous list of the world's puniest, least coherent complaints. 

President Obama used to speak about "the Joshua generation"—the generation which got to move way far ahead because of the sacrifices of those who had come before them. Hollywood used to build movies around this wider theme, though all the films which come to mind involved the pampered white daughters of devoted white mothers who had worked themselves to the bone.

This greatest generation deeply, devotedly served. In this gruesome performative era, the Washington Post can't run fast enough to publish the world's dumbest complaints from some of the world's most pampered, over-privileged people.

Elsewhere in the world, children are drowning in the sea as this performative posing persists at the Post. Autherine Lucy Foster has come and has gone.

Will there be many others like this group? Or are our best days dead and gone?

The gentleman's fuller statement: Dr. King's fuller statement went like this:

KING (2/4/68): Everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve.

You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.

You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

No really, that's what Dr. King said! That generation served.


  1. Sorry, dear Bob, we don't believe in "generations".

    25% are self-confessed liberals, and the rest (most of the rest anyway) are normal ordinary humyn beings.

    Normal ordinary humyn beings don't do "world's puniest, least coherent complaints"; brain-dead liberals are a different story...

    And that's all there is to it.

    1. Do you benefit in terms of a paid salary for watching this website, making sure Bob never strays into examining the right wing media outlets with any seriousness?

  2. A woman makes a sacrifice, even to the cost of her life if necessary, to attend college and Somerby celebrates that with a quote from Martin Luther King that says that higher learning is unnecessary and people can serve without it! I find that a confusing juxtaposition.

    MLK is surely not suggesting that black people not pursue education and accomplishment in the world. He is surely not suggesting that black people's only purpose be to serve other. When he says "serve" he appears to be referring to the cause of advancing justice for black people, the civil rights crusade to which he dedicated his own life. Yet Somerby appears to be suggesting that not only are efforts to educate oneself unnecessary, but they are undesirable because they result in people who laud themselves and have puny complaints.

    If this article were aimed at everyone, Somerby's oddness could be considered merely anti-higher-education, but he seems to be aiming it at black women who try to get an education, suggesting that it will make them above themselves, too uppity, too demanding? And this member of the greatest generation is exemplary because she went away when they told her to?

    Somerby's point here is unclear, but I don't think it is supportive of women or civil rights, despite his misuse of MLK's own words to encourage women to stop trying to push themselves where they are not wanted, and the greatest of taking that route.

    1. "Blah blah blah"

      On what planet is this an argument, much less a rebuttal?

      What I don't get is why someone who dislikes reading would visit a website.

    2. Your comment contains wild speculation about what the daily Howler is thinking and bears no resemblance to the things he said. Very common on this blog.

      It's common courtesy when getting as forceful as you do, on this planet, to at least give a quote of the incorrect or misleading statement.

      In other words, what you wrote was pure blah, blah, blah. It's cookie cutter, you just decided what you wanted to say about him and worked backwards to make it fit.

  3. "Today, in that very same Washington Post, this astoundingly silly column appears, in which a member of the Joshua generation voices a long, ridiculous list of the world's puniest, least coherent complaints."

    I went to the Washington Post article, behind its paywall, and found a female creator of crossword puzzles, asked to create puzzles relevant to Black History Month, who was criticized by puzzle-solvers for mentioning actual black history in her puzzles, upset because they didn't know who Marcus Garvey was, for example.

    Somerby calls this article astoundingly silly, but is it really too much to expect white people to be inclusive of black history after ignoring it for centuries? The comments themselves were the silly part -- people complaining about being educated about things against their will, as they worked the puzzles, all because some of the information concerned black rather than white people.

    From his other remarks about performativeness, it is almost as if Somerby thought this woman was showing off because she knows how to construct crossword puzzles! Her point was that learning shouldn't be avoided just because it concerns black history instead of white history. And I think she is right! Somerby is the one being peevish -- he doesn't think he should be asked to know anything about black history, much less the history of a black woman who was assaulted for trying to enter a university. Is this the same Somerby who thought Malala was great for risking her life to attend school? It doesn't seem like it.

    Today, he seems to be telling this crossword writer to back off and leave white people to their ignorance when they complain about having to know black clues -- it isn't as if Marcus Garvey is particularly obscure, by the way. Because if you expect anyone to know or care about black struggles, you are being performative and not one of those truly great black people who were hit by ripe tomatoes.

    And what kind of nerve does a black woman have, to write about her disappointment that white people criticize a puzzle simply for including clues they don't know. Their expectation is clearly to stay within their comfort zone of white facts about white people! How absolutely silly is that!

    By contrasting this black puzzle writer with the previous woman who risked her life to attend college, he makes neither of them seem courageous. He just makes himself seem part of a long line of white people stretching back to the beginning of slavery, insisting that black people should know their place and stay in it, without making any white people feel uncomfortable.

    Black people must live their lives immersed in white culture because white culture = American culture. Is it too much to ask that a white person read a black history book once in a while?

    I wonder if Somerby has ever wondered why it was a black woman who was chosen to integrate the University of Alabama and not a black man?

  4. Here is what Obama said about the Joshua generation:

    "From the pulpit, Obama paid tribute to “the Moses generation”—to Martin Luther King and John Lewis, to Anna Cooper and the Reverend Joseph Lowery—the men and women of the movement, who marched and suffered but who, in many cases, “didn’t cross over the river to see the Promised Land.” He thanked them, praised their courage, honored their martyrdom. But he spent much of his speech on his own generation, “the Joshua generation,” and tried to answer the question “What’s called of us?” Life had improved for African-Americans, but “we shouldn’t forget that better is not good enough.” Discrimination still existed. History was being forgotten. Schools were underfunded, citizens left uninsured, especially minorities. People were looking for “that Oprah money” but had forgotten the need for service, for discipline, for political will."

    What right does Somerby have to chastise any black person, or anyone else for that matter, for making an insufficient pledge to generate social change, following in the footsteps of the Moses generation?

    It seems to me that Somerby has been resisting the efforts of today's generation to build upon past progress, calling it "performative" and that right-wing term, virtue signaling. He has resisted civil rights progress at every turn in his column here. He seems to believe that the Moses generation did enough, and now that it is becoming personally inconvenient, current civil rights efforts are empty gestures, racist in themselves (another righ-wing meme) and unnecessary. The Moses generation solved everything, Somerby claims, while he calls the Joshua generation's efforts trivial.

    Somerby has no standing to lecture black people about what they, the Joshua generation, should be doing to advance civil rights. Somerby opposed the 1619 project to include black people in the economic and political history of our nation. He doesn't mind when Republicans ban CRT and teaching of accurate racial history. He never misses a chance to criticize Ta-Nehisi Coates or Charles Blow or numerous other black professors and cable news experts. He opposes efforts to include more black kids in science high schools. He went out of his way to write a column criticizing presidential primary candidate Kamala Harris on thin grounds (for repeating a statement found on the Department of Labor website). And today he finds it absolutely silly that a black woman expects Americans to know some black history in order to work a crossword puzzle.

    As if black people in general needed Somerby's guidance about how to work toward civil rights goals. If the Moses generation had allowed old white men to tell them how to behave, we would still have segregated universities. Why should the Joshua generation pay any more attention to assholes like Somerby? And why does Somerby think anyone should listen to him? He has certainly done nothing to earn that respect.

  5. "No really, that's what Dr. King said! That generation served."

    Somerby says this, as if the current generation of black people were not serving the cause of civil rights today.

    Somerby perhaps doesn't recognize today's service toward the cause because it doesn't take a form he approves of. Those involved in BLM are serving. Those opposing the attempts to ban black history is schools are serving. Those running for office, or working in the campaigns of black candidates are serving. Stacey Abrams is certainly serving, as are the many black women who are the backbone of Democratic Party politics. Black students who are going into stem disciplines, working as public school teachers, entering fields previously barred to them are serving. Black professionals are showing what they are capable of doing, given the opportunity, and that is service because they are the role models for today's students. Black athletes who use their celebrity to promote social justice are serving. Black people who work for the ACLU or on the Innocence project are serving. Black people in the military are serving, especially as they enter ranks previously closed to them. Those who worked for Obama served because he broke an important color barrier. Those who pressured Biden to appoint a black female supreme court justice are serving because that is another color barrier, important to changing perceptions of women as only capable of suffering and not doing our nation's work alongside men. Black people in the media are serving because they represent a point of view that needs to be heard. A woman who writes a crossword in which the answers are taken from black history is educating white people, sometimes against their will, and she too is serving.

    And it is not up to Somerby to tell black people who is serving and who is not, even if he looks up MLK in a book and pretends they might have even the slightest point of agreement about civil rights. Somerby has a lot of nerve pretending that he can be the conscience of the Joshua generation when he thinks race was not involved in Zimmerman's not guilty verdict. Somerby is a white man, a complete and total ass, who thinks he has the right to tell any black person how to serve.

  6. Black women in South Central Los Angeles, have been key to gang violence abatement in that area. Any success at reducing gun deaths has been due to their efforts, not solely policing. I have no doubt this is true elsewhere across the country.

    Black people in the 1960s decided that if their lives were going to improve and the problems of black communities find solutions, it was not going to be because of white people's efforts. The ongoing efforts to reduce poverty, improve health, increase literacy, reduce crime, and increase voter participation, have been due to black men and women working tirelessly at the community level and via black organizations to improve black lives. Somerby's failure to see that is very telling about his attitudes toward race. The last thing he should be doing is chiding the current generation for slacking off on such efforts. It is outrageous that he would write this kind of effort, using the words of Obama and MLK to chastise black people from his lawn chair in his very white back yard, reading Wittgenstein and thinking that he understand everything because he is a fat old white man.

  7. I'll bet Somerby had to look up Autherine Lucy. You can bet he didn't know her name.

  8. Here is some racial progress being made by the Joshua generation:

    "The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Missouri School District Wentzville on behalf of two minor students over the removal of books from school libraries, reported CNN. After receiving backlash from taking a Toni Morrison novel off the shelves, the board voted to bring the book back, reported NBC News."

  9. One can appreciate Bob's tribute to Ms. Foster.

    It is slightly surprising Bob goes all in on "The Greatest Generation" a dubious cliche dreamed up by one of the corporate media's most ludicrous hacks. What about the creeps who pelted her with eggs? What generation were they from?
    Our current debate and social problems surrounding race are both the same and different than they were in the era Bob is touching on. It was never a simple or easy thing. One would like to think Bob would have backed MLK in his day. Yet most of the time, as Republicans do, Bob simply points at King as a way of denying we have any problems left. Problems he seems pretty committed to ignoring. As far as setting the record straight when the Joy Reids arguing disingenuously, well, courage like Ms. Foster's is always in short supply.

  10. It’s too bad public school students won’t learn about Autherine Lucy, because her story will make white kids feel bad.

    Liberals must see that conservative parents have a point, don’t they, in excluding these “problematical” stories from being taught. Bad CRT. Bad CRT.

    1. Should white people feel bad because of what some other white people did? Should black people feel bad because of all the crimes committed today by other black people? NO.

      First of all, we're not guilty of crimes committed by other people.

      But, there's more subtle, controversial reason. Race is just a construct. If a white person should feel bad about what was done to Lucy, then a black person should also feel bad. We're all just human beings.

    2. I feel bad because a bunch of Mormons dressed up like Indiana and massacred some settlers, making it look like the Indians had done it. That happened in Cedar Breaks.

      When I first heard about it, I was ashamed for the people who had done such a despicable thing. I am not Mormon or Indian, but I can feel a sense of shame that others behaved so badly at a point in history long before I was born.

      If you don't have the sense of decency to be ashamed over such acts, there is something wrong with your conscience. It is only this connectedness to other people that results in moral behavior. If it is easy for you to say, I didn't do that, I wasn't there, it wasn't me, then you will not treat other people decently because there is a whole in your soul.

      Working too hard to avoid feeling bad about things can be crippling, and if you think black people don't feel bad about stuff too, then you are super ignorant, David.

    3. How shameful was the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones? If you thought that was a clever idea for getting the upper hand on enemies, then you fail the human being test. These incidents in history help us form our own character. That's why kids need to learn about them.

  11. “That generation served.”

    The implication is that the current generation does not.

    Here he is judging an entire generation by something the mainstream media chooses to publish.

    His conclusion, that moral greatness only existed back in the past, and that the current generation is full of performative complainers does not follow from an “astoundingly silly” column that he happens to see published in the Times or Post.

    He no longer questions the motives these newspapers have for the things they publish, but views them as representative of liberal thought or entire generations of people.

  12. “children are drowning in the sea as this performative posing persists at the Post.”

    It is liberal organizations, like Sea Eye, that devote themselves to rescuing drowning children (and adults) in the Mediterranean, refugees. But Somerby won’t mention that.

    And one might have thought that Somerby would ditch his usual construction of “drowning children” for maybe something a little more current, for example, Ukrainians dying because of the Russian invasion.

    But then, that is getting massive media coverage, so it wouldn’t fit his narrative.