Fraternity: College of the Holy Cross in 1968

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Diane Brady, Bloomberg Business Week Senior Editor and author of Fraternity, discusses the story of a fraternity of young African American men formed in 1968. 


Diane Brady

Comments [7]

Yesterdays Wine from New York, NY

I have not read the book but in the interview and the Business Week article upon which it is based, there is a good deal of revisionist history from Ms. Brady.

I was in the same year and in many classes as was Clarence Thomas and I remember him not as a good, or even mediocre, student, but as a dullard who brought very little to the academic party. I believed him at Holy Cross to be merely cosmetically a black person while having a sort of reactionary personality. (What his politics were while at H.C remain unclear to me, although I think his was a sort of Randian gospel of self, something his adult life bears out.) I also firmly believe that his virulent stand against affirmative action is a sort of cover for the favored status he gained at Holy Cross and at Yale, where, by all accounts he was over his head intellectually.

I would also like to point out that for all the lip service paid by John Brookes to "social justice" in that era, there was a concerted effort by the college when he was president to stamp out (mildly) leftist sentiment and restrict many activist efforts from roughly 1969 to 1974. The college judiciary system was manipulated to create havoc in the lives of dozens of activists (except for black students who were forgiven their sins). Indeed, arcane academic rules, not enforced for decades were also used via the Dean of Men's office to further make life difficult for some students. There was a very strong push back against what were then termed "radical" professors, many of whom lost their jobs over their political beliefs (those vehemently against the Vietnam War; ROTC - as antithetical to Catholic ideals; against recruiting by corporations intimately involved with war production and apartheid, and other issues.) In fact, an article in Time magazine back then described Holy Cross as "the cradle of the Catholic left," because it educated anti-war activist and priest Phil Berrigan and social researcher and commentarist Michael Harrington, and because the college was spawning a sort of northern version of liberation theology both in the faculty and in the student body. Severing that tradition that was then roughly 20 to 25 years old, Father Brookes, possibly to safeguard fund raising endeavors, led a 5-year-long political cleansing.

Writing a feel-good book about a handful of African-Americans who "made it," despite some of the often shameful actions in their careers, does a disservice to those who actually fought for social justice on a broad front at Holy Cross and the many who continued to fight throughout the battle in their later lives.

Pulitzer Prize winner Ed Jones perhaps best represents the success of the African-American of that era at Holy Cross. However, I would venture to say that he would have succeeded as a writer regardless of what college he attended, whether he was mentored or not, or who his compatriots were.

Jan. 15 2012 01:27 PM

You're right. Father Brooks helped Thomas to make a late transfer to Holy Cross, with full financial support. He came in as a sophomore, not as a freshman. It was Brooks who was pushing across the board to increase the number of black students on campus.

And just want to clarify what he told me about Holy Cross. The implication isn't that he couldn't meet the standards of Yale; it's that he was a good fit for Holy Cross. One of his biggest issues with affirmative action, as you'll see from that initial interview you linked to, is that he feels the push has resulted in minority students being pulled into institutions that they might not otherwise qualify to attend--thus setting them up to fail. It's a debatable point, of course, but his appreciation of Father Brooks stems in part from the fact that he felt the priest looked as much at their academic records and other prerequisites for success as their skin color. Brooks was not interested in kids who he didn't think could handle the academic challenge, but he recognized that the social challenges were a different matter. He made allowances on the second, not the first. Thanks for the feedback.

Jan. 08 2012 02:28 AM
Harry from NJC

Why didn't Diane correct Brian who several times says "they were recruited"? In her own interview with Clarence Thomas he specifically calls out the media on this point as he said his going to Holy Cross was the result of a nun's suggestion. Read it for yourself:
Diane Brady also makes a backhanded comment about Thomas at 6:30 when she says Thomas "loved Holy Cross because he was judged for himself and held to standards he was able to meet..." Amazingly secularists just don't understand the mission of the Church. And what endears Clarence Thomas to the institution of the Catholic Church is the fact that the religious have taken a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience all in the service of souls, black, white, male, female, licentious sinner or saint. It is thoroughly ridiculous to think Father Brooks had an interest in the main of strictly cultivating the next generation of leadership. For the religious it is about outreach for the purpose of love and conversion. It is this that moves Thomas emotionally and is a reason for him returning to his Catholic faith after so many years. As it is said, it is a Church of sinners trying to find God’s grace and Thomas saw that grace in the religious teachers at Holy Cross.

Jan. 05 2012 08:17 PM
Diane Brady from New York

Thanks for tuning in. I just wanted to give Jonathan some perspective on the campus today. Holy Cross tells me that 25% of the Class of 2015 is ALANA (African-American, Latin American, Asian-American, and Native American) ... What I don't know is what percentage of the student body is comprised of African American men. Interestingly, 53% of the class is female -- a stat that we're seeing replicated on campuses around the country.

Jan. 04 2012 01:22 PM
gene from NYC

What was going on at Holy Cross that both Wells and Thomas came out ready willing and able to support tobacco companies?

Wells represented Philip Morris in USA v. PMUSA, et. al.

Thomas' SCOTUS decisions do nothing but support tobacco.

Jan. 04 2012 10:54 AM
Jonathan from Williamsburg

HC class of 98 here, I'm curious how Diane would rate HC on diversity today?

Jan. 04 2012 10:54 AM
Yosif from Manhattan

Uncle Thomas is not black. We revoked his status. Brian keeps it more real than him and is blacker than that disgrace to the black community.

Jan. 04 2012 10:53 AM

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