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before you were offered the teaching post at Howard?
Yes. After I became converted, by Sumner. He was my model.
Mamie said, “Look, you're going to be just like Dr. Sumner.”
I said, “Never. I wish I could.” I never could be like
him. I just wished that it were possible for me to be that conscientious.
And whenever he said something complimentary, I always knew
that I never really reached anywhere near his level of scholarship.
But he was my model, and I was ecstatic when he offered
me the position in teaching, you know -- which, by the way, was his
way of really preparing me for top level work at Columbia. He knew
that I was going on for my PhD, but he said, “Look, take this year
And I said, “Fine.” It gave me an opportunity to save
enough money to pay Columbia.
You'd already chosen Columbia as your school?
Yes. Oh, yes. I'd heard Otto Kleinberg talk once, and I'd read
things that he had written. I said, “OK, this is where I want to go.”
Now, I applied at another place. I applied at Cornell.
But my first choice was Columbia. Cornell wrote me back and said
that they couldn't admit me because I was colored. And they said it,
that the PhD work was very intimate and involved close not only
working but social relationships with faculty and a rather small
number of students, and they thought that I would be unhappy.
I read the damn letter, and I said, “Now, you know, I
don't want them worrying about my happiness or unhappiness; I'm not
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