In Laurel, Mississippi, where I grew up, there were two worlds: one black and one white, divided by train tracks. During the day, black workers crossed over the tracks to work in the homes and the businesses of the white people. By sunset, they retreated to the other side of the tracks where they lived. Without giving it much thought, I just assumed that was the way the world was.

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated during a protest for equal pay for black city workers in Memphis, where I was in college, I began to wake up.

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