TRANSFERRING TO HARVARD might have been one of the biggest mistakes of my life. When I decided I had had enough of "nigger, know your place" academics and football at Drake University in Iowa, I foolishly thought that it might be possible for me to escape it by fleeing East. East where the "good" white people were. Now Harvard has proved to me what I had really feared all along: there are very few "good" white people and they are not to be found all in one location. Of course, some whites are more outwardly pleasant than others to black people, but I judge a man by his actions, not his appearance. I could care less if his smile is wide or if he's in the habit of regularly saying "hello".
I want to talk mainly about my athletic career at Harvard and why nobody knows my name here. Before I came to Harvard. I played in a much tougher football conference than the Ivy League--the Missouri Valley conference. I was considered to be a "great" football player. Local newspapers reflected this notion. In The Des Moines Register and Tribune of Sept. 5, 1966, Jack Wallace, the head coach at Drake said:
Sept. 5, 1966. "Future Great" "Williams is described by Wallace as a "future great." The head coach said that the frosh halfback played only one year of prep ball but has great potential because of his speed and size."
March 18, 1967 "Sidney Williams, a 205-pound freshman halfback from Chicago, has blossomed beyond expectations and Wallace said he could develop into an outstanding ball carrier.
April 5, 1967 "Williams--a real zipper--with 175 yards on the ground was the top rusher for the Bulldog offense."
Sept. 15, 1967 "...a formidable running back, Sid Williams. 'We knew next to nothing about Sid as a football player', said Jack. 'I found out he had played only one season for Hyde Park in Chicago. It's a big school, but it plays in a minor conference, and it doesn't take game films."
'But here was a big, strong young man, and I found he could run pretty fast, could high jump 6 feet, and that he was second in the city in the triple-jump. That made him a football prospect in my book.'
'Sid's one high school season had been in the single-wing--taking a direct snap from center,' said Wallace. 'But he really developed in spring practice and he's been even batter in our fall workouts. He has a chance to become one of the best running backs anywhere.'
The 6-foot, 210-pound Williams is last but,' says Wallace, 'not tremendously so. His moves and his strength are what make him a fine runner."
Oct. 1. 1967 "Wallace calls Williams one of the hardest runners he has ever had at Drake...'Sid has shown he can run very hard and we're working him overtime this week to get him ready for Northwest Missouri, coach Jack Wallace explained Sunday."
So it's clear that before I came to Harvard, many persons considered me to be a "formidable" football player. In fact, throughout my high school and Drake career I was always regarded as an exceptional athlete. Until I came to Harvard. I had always been a first-string player.
But why did I come to Harvard? Why did I leave a situation where I had established myself as the "super nigger" of the Drake backfield. Why? The answer could possibly be found in the same reasons why blacks left the South and came North. North where they felt they could finally be free men.
My answer is I just grew tired at Drake--tired of white coaches calling me "boy" when I told them my name was Williams or even Sidney. Tired of white coaches calling me "colored" after I repeatedly informed them that I would appreciate being called "black". Tired of white coaches telling me what I should major in, what courses to get in and what I should do if I wanted to graduate. Tired of white coaches telling me how I should dress and wear my hair and who I should associate with. Tired of white professors who would not dare to go into a black ghetto without a police escort, telling me why black people acted the way they did and what should be done to make them "Normal Americans". Tired of flakey white students who worshipped me as a "colored" athlete but never respected me as a black man.
Just as the black man came North in search of a promised land where he could be a man, so did I come to Harvard. I came to Harvard because I had had enough of the bad white people out at Drake. I wanted to go where the good white people were--the land of Garrison and Beecher Stowe. Where Fred Douglass escaped. Where Crispus Attucks thought life was good enough to sacrifice his life for Independence. To the school that educated DuBois and Trotter. Yes, I came to this land and its "greatest liberal institution". I came because I thought I could be a free man here, at least have more freedom that I was allotted at Drake. Nobody would stand in my way in my quest to be a free and total man. But just as so many blacks found when they came North that there is no sanctuary or preserve in this country where a black man can be free, where he can be himself and still be respected and honored for being so, I found that also is true at Harvard.
At Drake, I was shackled by a typical grant-in-aid athletic scholarship, a stagnant academic environment and a stifled social life. I came to Harvard--as most students do--primarily for personal advancement. First I wanted to equip my mind so that one day I might become an anthropological authority. I thought a Harvard degree would enhance my credibility in this pursuit. Now I feel it might have the opposite effect. Additionally, I came to continue my gridiron "super nigger" exploits.