Lee Woodruff: Moving the needle on race relations

CBS News asked noted figures in the arts, business and politics about their experience in today's civil rights movement, or about figures who inspired them in their activism.

Lee Woodruff, author; co-founder, Bob Woodruff Foundation; contributor, "CBS This Morning"

Is there something that you'd like to share about your personal connection to civil rights issues?

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Courtesy Lee Woodruff
I have a distinct childhood memory of my Southern-born grandmother answering her door to a black man who was looking for odd jobs in our upstate New York town. He was polite and courteous, and I can recall my confusion at her fluster, her obvious sense of unease as she locked the door behind him.

The civil rights movement had already caught fire and burned, and in the upheaval of the '70s, my views on equality and race were different than those of my parents' generation.

Scrolling decades ahead, as a mother, I am not naive about human nature, but am hopeful that our children may provide a blueprint for the future. They see color, race, religion and gender as more fluid and less divisive characteristics than we do. They are not as quick to judge. The lines they see are more blurred.

In elementary school my daughter was trying to describe a classmate to me. She rolled through a litany of the girl's clothing, the color of her eyes and hair. I was drawing a blank. Exasperated at my lack of recall, she said, "Well, she has more brownish skin, Mom!"

And I thought, "We've moved the needle a bit from Nana Stokes."


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