Young people have to understand that African American history is not confined to the pages of history but is a living, vibrant thing,â€ Lautenberg told an audience gathered at the Paul Robeson Gallery on the campus of Rutgers University. A Paterson native, Lautenberg recalled attending school with many African-Americans, includingLarry Doby, who broke the color line in professional baseballâ€™s American League.
Lautenberg also recalled the first time he encountered Jim Crow laws, during a visit to Atlantic City with his mother and grandmother when he was about 10 years old. The young Lautenberg was shocked to see signs over water fountains reading â€œWhites Onlyâ€ and African Americans being forced to take the rear seats on buses.
â€œIt stuck with me. I couldnâ€™t believe it, right in Atlantic City,â€ Lautenberg said, adding that there was a â€œgreat deal of shame attached to that period.â€