Nazareth College’s President Daan Braveman on defining moments and his own March on Washington, August 1963

Nazareth College’s President Daan Braveman on defining moments and his own March on Washington, August 1963

Brighton High School Yearbook, Crossroads, 1965 [courtesy of Brighton Memorial Library]

You first met Nazareth College President Daan Braveman in The underground history of Nazareth College . During our subterranean art tour, Daan talked briefly about his career in civil rights law before becoming Nazareth’s president in 2005.  Daan said he had at least a few good stories to tell.

Never wanting to miss a good story, a month or so after our adventure, we met in his (above ground) office to talk more about how he became involved in civil rights in the first place. Daan’s answer — about a defining moment — piqued my interest. Modestly calling his “defining moment” maybe trite, for Daan it was August 1963 when as a 15 year old sophomore at Brighton High School he attended the March on Washington. While after Daan, I also went to Brighton.


myself and Daan, (almost) underground [Photo: Jane Kelly] from The underground history of Nazareth College

Daan’s civil rights journey began in 1962 when Dr. David Tolliver and his family became the first African-American homeowners in Brighton.

Like others who know Brighton history, I had heard the basics of the story, having been in the same class as Dr. Tolliver’s daughter Carol, and speaking a couple of times with David, still going strong in his 80s.

In 1962, some deed agreements in Brighton still prohibited blacks and Jews (Daan is Jewish), while throughout the town African-American homeownership was widely discouraged.

Apparently — as Dr. Tolliver was negotiating the purchase — attempts were made to buy out the owner and prevent the Tollivers from moving into Brighton. (for more on exclusionary practices in Brighton, see At the 1957 Brighton Town Hall mural with Sandra Frankel) 


Corn Hill Methodist Episcopal Church [D & C file photo] see Constance Mitchell recalls Malcolm X’s February 1965 visit to Rochester<

Daan remembers reading about the situation in the papers. While Daan had never met Tolliver nor even seen the house, the attempt at discriminatory exclusion bothered him.

While only 15, Daan took it upon himself, along with two other Brighton students, to attend meetings of C.O.R.E (Congress of Racial Equality), a mostly black activist group including Tolliver that met at the Corn Hill Methodist Episcopal Church on Plymouth Avenue.

As Daan pointed out, it was the same church where Malcom X spoke five days before his assassination. (see Constance Mitchell recalls Malcolm X’s February 1965 visit to Rochester)

Perhaps too young to understand all that was said, the messages Daan heard resonated.

In August 1963, Daan was invited to C.O.R.E’s trip to the March on Washington. And he went, along with four or five busloads of pilgrims. It was stiflingly hot in the non-airconditioned bus. Daan still vividly recalls one nauseous person getting sick. What was he getting into?


Dr. Martin Luther King at the home of Dr. Charles T. Lunsfod (1958) [Photo: Charles Price] from On his Day, remembering when Martin Luther King visited Rochester, January 7th, 1958

Over 50 years later, the details of the March itself are etched in memory.

There was lots of singing, especially We Shall Overcome. And Peter, Paul and Mary could be heard. And for some reason, a Detroit radio station interviewed him. Daan sat to the right of the steps of the Lincoln Monument when King dreamed. He remembers thinking, as a 15 year old boy, he should go to law school and become a civil rights lawyer. And Daan did.

(see On his Day, remembering when Martin Luther King visited Rochester, January 7th, 1958

We also discussed how one we really knows or defines a “defining life moment.” Daan is certain at the March he did imagine himself becoming a civil rights lawyer.  But had Dr. Tolliver not been harassed when buying his home, would it have been different?  Was it mostly defining in retrospect? A re-creation. Looking backwards and weaving his personal story into historical narratives that now make sense?

Daan actually doesn’t talk that much about the March or its impact on him. The March was about a lot more than a 15 year old sophomore from Brighton.  And for all Daan has contributed, the civil rights movement is about a lot more than a law professor turned college president. But he will always be glad he went. Even if it was pretty gross when that person got sick.

ALSO on MLK in Rochester

On Dr. Charles T. Lunsford and the house where he entertained Martin Luther King Jr.


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An Eerie Quiet at Nazareth College, Part Two, by Ian Richard Schaefer

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About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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