John Legend: 'Black People Have To Prove They Belong'

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John Legend’s fame means he doesn’t have to face most of the challenges many black men encounter for no other reason than the colour of their skin – but it hasn’t always been this way.

“One of the things that I noticed the most at college was how if people don’t know you’re a student, they treat you like an outsider around campus,” the singer told People in January. “I had several interactions with the police where they questioned my right to even be where I was, to get in my own car.”

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Legend said he felt racism the most around the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, from where he studied African-American literature and graduated with an English degree. He recalled “being treated like I didn’t belong there because I was black.”

The takeaway was that “black people and other people of colour have to prove that they belong in circumstances that other people don’t.”

So, Legend responded by arming himself with knowledge. He would go to the library and read about civil rights activists and abolitionists.

“I was attracted to those stories of their heroism, moral clarity and moral courage,” he explained, “so that’s when I really started to become more aware of the way racism has worked in our country and in our society.”

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