Colin Powell: The story I’ve told many times is of coming home from Vietnam in 1963, having been away for an entire year, and my wife had had a son while I was away. I was busy trying to get a home ready for my family in the area. I couldn’t get on base yet, the housing wasn’t available. So I found a place in Phoenix City, Alabama, which was not a great place to live as a black in those days.
One night after working on the house, I tried to buy a hamburger at a drive-in place in Columbus. I knew I couldn’t go in, I didn’t try to go in. I just tried to order it on the little speaker box for it to be brought out. The young lady came out to take my order, the way it was done in those days, and she looked in the car and she asked me if I was Puerto Rican, and I said “No.” And then she asked me if I was an African student studying at the Infantry School. I said, “No, I’m not an African student studying at the Infantry School, I’m an American.” And she said, “I’m terribly sorry, but I can’t bring it out to the car. You’ll have to get out and go around to the back.” And I said, “Thank you very much, no thanks,” and I drove off. That wasn’t terrifying, it was just deeply, deeply hurtful and disappointing.