finding your roots

Hon. Judge Bruce McM. Wright, New York City

Tiffany Alexis Pagana (formerly Tiffany Wright) October 15, 2012

Dear Dr. Gates:
I am the daughter of Judge Bruce McM. Wright. I obtained my B.A. and M.B.A. from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. back in 1998. I was born, raised, and educated in Brooklyn and the City of New York. Now, I am 46-years old, living here in Miami Beach. When my father passed away in 2005, he left me all of his writings, old papers on onion-skinned film, court-opinions, letters to his seven wives, newspaper articles from The New York Times, The Post, The Daily News — NYPD hated my father with a passion, and he was always in trouble for his ideas. They called him “Turn ‘Em Loose Bruce” and they said that he was the “best friend” of all “niggers, puerto-ricans, mafiosos, and other low-lifes” in the City of New York. It was an unfair description. My father was appointed by Mayor Lindsay, and his position on the criminal bench was that bail should be fair. And my father upheld the Constitution of the United States. The City of New York recently named a street after my Dad titled: “Judge Bruce Wright Place” at 138th Street in Harlem, Manhattan. My brothers Keith Wright and Geoff Wright were responsible for making it happen. I got stuck here in Miami Beach and could not attend. I am proud nevertheless.
My father suffered horrific racism back in his day. He was so intelligent as to have been accepted into Princeton Law School on paper. But when he arrived to the University back then, they told him that there were no black students at the school, and perhaps he would feel “alone” if he accepted freshman attendance. The provost of Princeton University suggested that he go back home to Harlem, where he would feel more comfortable with “his people”. Fifty years later, Princeton University awarded my father an honorary doctorate degree. They were ashamed, apologetic, and disgraceful. My father accepted the degree.

As his only daughter, I may have been reluctant to deal with Princeton University at all. However, my father always had a lot more class, persistence and grace, than I will ever know. Yet, as I read his writings, my father could cut one down at the knees with his writings and his great sense of humor, and most folks would be too stupid to even realize it!
To make a long story short, I wish to share my father’s story with all of the black law schools throughout the country which he shared graduation commencements. Also, I wish to share his writings and his story with young people who have no idea who he is. I own all of the awards and his papers. I am amazed, even wandering here through my neighborhood in Miami Beach, how many people remember “Turn ‘Em Loose Bruce”. Me and my Dad spent so many fun evenings at dinner in Manhattan and Brooklyn. He was my favorite “hang-out buddy”. He was so wildly intelligent. And so am I. I miss my father. And now I want to honor him through his writings. The 1970′s was one hell-of-a-time in NYC. My brothers and my Auntie and my sister are still there. And they are keeping the legend alive with all of the intelligence of our family. I want to do my part through these papers that clog-up my apartment.
Tiffany Wright-Pagana

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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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