Author François Scarborough Clemmons (“From the Beginning,” NER 39.2) kept us spellbound for an hour as he sat in the NER offices and regaled us with his sweeping story. François tells us how he got from the Alabama of 1945 to Oberlin College, then to playing the role of Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and ultimately to being the Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir at Middlebury College, from which he is now retired—and busier than ever!
From François Clemmons: “I began to think about the things that formed me—what were the things that contributed? Once I’d sat and thought a lot, as I traveled, and observed ‘slavery’ was the word that I realized I had avoided. It was embarrassing. Slavery was embarrassing. It was a subject that I had never felt comfortable discussing with my peers or white people, non-black people, Asians, native Americans. I could not discuss slavery comfortably so I thought I need to go back and read about slavery because I realized that’s who I am. I am the product of slavery in this country. I had to go back to Africa.”
More conversation with François, as told to editorial panel member Gretchen Schrafft, is excerpted here.