William Hood is a professor emeritus of art history at Oberlin College and a visiting professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.
FORTY-FIVE years ago, the Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr. went to a small dinner party in Atlanta, not far from the campus of Emory University. It was a quiet January night in 1968. I was one of the guests.
Our hostess, Wanda White, was a young public-school teacher. In the fall of 1967, she worked with Mrs. King, helping with her schedule, as well as other personal and professional responsibilities. During a conversation, Wanda asked the Kings over for a low-key dinner. They accepted, and Wanda invited some of her close friends. (All of us were white.)
My best friend, Larry Shaw, and I were invited to the dinner. He came from a long line of salt-of-the-earth skilled tradesmen anchored in Appalachian South Carolina and the red clay fields of Georgia. My father was a successful industrialist in Birmingham, Ala. We anticipated the approaching dinner with the empty-headed excitement of young people who rarely think beyond their own self-interest....