CoastLine: Reggie Shuford, raised in Creekwood, now heads ACLU in PA
The Creekwood community in Wilmington, a housing project often referred to as part of the inner city, is still somewhat isolated. It's a place where it’s hard to get a pizza or much else delivered because drivers fear the neighborhood violence. But it was here that a little boy lived with his mother and four siblings in the 1970s and 80s. There were extended family members, aunts and uncles, but his single mother raised her five children on her own.
Even Creekwood was a step up for this family. Before landing there, the six of them sometimes ate by candlelight when his mother, who worked as a domestic and also relied on government assistance, couldn’t pay the electric bill. They kept empty milk jugs around to borrow water from neighbors when the water bill went unpaid.
Because this boy called Reggie had a flair for academia, he learned easily and got good grades. And then one day in the early 1980s, a local private high school founded as a way for white students to escape integration, offered Reggie a scholarship. He excelled and became the first Black student to graduate from Cape Fear Academy. As Salutatorian, he gave a speech at commencement during which former students taunted him with racist epithets.
He went on to law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was president of his graduating class. After clerking for the first Black North Carolina Supreme Court Justice, Henry Frye, he spent the next three years at a small law firm in Raleigh. He then went on to the national office of the American Civil Liberties Union in New York, where he stayed for 15 years. In 2011, Reggie Shuford accepted the post of Executive Director of the Pennsylvania ACLU.
This little boy from Creekwood who ticked multiple boxes for being at-risk forged a successful career and for decades now has been reaching back to help others.
What made the difference for him? And why does he say that the real Truth and Reconciliation conversation has not yet begun?