ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

50 Years Ago the Tournament of Roses First Black Royal Court Member Made History

Updated on January 1, 2019
Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

Sylvia is a freelance journalist residing in Fort Wayne, Indiana who writes on a variety of topics.

Tournament of Roses Royal Court 1969

The Beginning

That late September morning will always be as fresh in my memory as if were happening now. It was a historic moment, one that would be broadcast around the globe. Yet today, few remember or even have knowledge of the history.

On that day in 1969 I became the first black Tournament of Roses Princess. It was not something I set out to do, but rather something destiny chose for me, a 17-year-old high school senior. And the world was waiting to see how I would respond.

Pasadena Society

There were so many activities. So many opportunities to be placed in front of Pasadena's socially exclusive society. Each wanting to size me up and see if I would commit the unforgivable error in speech, protocol, or etiquette. But I met their gazes with smiles and held my own in conversation, and I never let them see me sweat.

We were always followed by the media, especially me. Reporters always asking the same stupid questions and I could never be just a Rose Princess. I was always the Negro Rose Princess. I couldn't be an ordinary excited teenage girl. Because I was black, my emotions must somehow be unique to my skin color. Yet, I never flinched.

The Best and Worst of Times

I previously wrote an article, Memoirs of a Rose Princess, about many aspects of my experience. So many today were not born yet, or have forgotten what it was like in 1968/1969. They see the diverse courts and take it for granted. This is why I'm writing this article.

Even in the excitement of being chosen, I understood the impact of making history. I had come of age during the civil rights era and had witnessed marches and beatings, MLK and Malcom X, segregation and integration, riots and hate. I knew what was at stake.

When I got home that night I started reading many of the telegrams that had been sent. Not all of them were congratulatory. There were many that did not want to see me ride down Colorado Boulevard on the float New Year's Day. It was only the beginning. Pasadena was about to see what I was made of.

Grace Under Fire

One of the biggest events was the Grand Marshall's Ball which was held at the Huntington Sheraton Hotel. It was very stately and elegant. Our Grand Marshall was Bob Hope. In the ballroom were huge round tables that seated visiting dignataries. Each table had one court member as hostess. Earlier, when we were given our assigned tables, I saw that I would be seated with Lester Maddox and his delegation. For those who do not know, Lester Maddox was the racist Governor of Georgia who refused to serve black customers in his Atlanta restaurant.

I don't know who made that choice. The Tournament offered to change my table, but I told them no, I would keep that table. I never wanted to give the impression that anyone had succeeded in scaring or intimidating me. Governor Maddox ended up not coming and sent the Lt. Governor. It was my job to put everyone at ease, and I did. I'm sure I was not what they were expecting.

A Different Time - A Forgotten Time

The times were very different then, and so was the Tournament of Roses and the caliber of men who were on my committee. I was aware there could be no mistakes, and so did they. Rather than shelter me, they knew it was more important to equip me to be able to endure and succeed in this test I'd been given. I have always thanked them for that.

Today you cannot find our court. Try to Google us. Try to find who was the first black Royal Court member. There are only a couple of pictures. Without this history, black court members today have no idea what it took to pave the way for them, and it makes the Tournament look like it has always been diverse. It hasn't. It still has a long way to go.



© 2018 Sylvia Van Peebles

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)