“You’ve done it now. You will never go any further.” This was the verdict from my close friends. Imagine what my detractors were saying.

It was 1970. I was newly elected to the Virginia State Senate, representing Richmond as the first African American senator since Reconstruction, and I’d been on the job for only three weeks when people thought I had all but destroyed my political future.

Most people thought the very fact I’d been elected was a shock to the system, and it would probably be best if I stayed under the radar for a while.

Well, it was not to be.  – [Chapter One]

I might have become bitter, but in 1954, months after my return, something extraordinary occurred. Nine white men on the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ended school segregation with a ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. That decision restored my faith in America and lifted my spirits. I saw the door creaking open, and I knew that America was, as Theodore White said, “still in search of itself.” The Brown decision meant everything to me, and it turned my life around because that’s when I decided to pursue a career in law. I wanted to be a part of this marvelous social engineering. I strongly believed that if African Americans had full access to education, there was nothing they couldn’t achieve. The key to achieving equality was education. – [Chapter Three]