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Judge shares his story about segregation with today's youth

Before lunch, Judge Houston spent a few moments with Russell Dinkins, a junior from Philadelphia, who is the President of Reach Out in Support of Ethnicity, and WMA Trustee Jim Brown, also from Philadelphia, who graduated from Monson Academy in 1955.Reminder Publications submitted photo

WILBRAHAM On Sept. 27 Judge Julian Houston, 15-year associate justice of Middlesex Superior Court, spoke to the students and faculty at Wilbraham & Monson Academy.

The reason for his visit was that his young adult novel, "New Boy," was selected as the common summer reading book for all students and faculty. In crafting the novel, Houston drew extensively on his experiences growing up in the segregated South, as one of only three African-American students at The Hotchkiss School in the late 1950s, and as a civil rights activist in Boston and Harlem in the 1960s.

Houston arrived on campus in the late morning and enjoyed lunch and conversation with Bicentennial Scholars and students who are members of Reach Out in Support of Ethnicity, the multicultural group on campus. He asked the same question of every senior he met, "So what are your plans for next year?" The answers varied from "I'm considering my options," to "I plan to attend the University of Chicago."

"New Boy" brings alive the facts of life for African Americans in the South at that time, when separate was by no means equal and traveling from one area to the country to another involved mental and emotional adjustments that were often wrenching. Judge Houston wrote the book because he wanted young people to understand what it was really like to grow up in those times. When a student asked what he hoped readers would take away from the book, he noted that novelists don't usually answer that question; they write the book, and readers take what they will. But he added that he did hope they would get a feeling for the times by reading it.