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Pasadena Woman To Ride Rose Parade Over 50 Years Later After Being Denied Honor Over Her Race

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A Pasadena woman will finally get her chance to be honored in the upcoming Rose Parade after being denied in 1958 because of her race.

Joan Williams was named Miss Crown City in 1958 by the city of Pasadena, a title similar to the Rose Queen. She was set to represent the city in the parade and events leading up to New Year celebration. "For my co-workers to have found me worthy and want me to be the one to represent them, that was quite a feather in my cap," Williams told ABC 7.

However, once people learned that the fair-skinned Williams was of African-American heritage, the city of Pasadena neglected to include a city float in the parade. This denied her the opportunity to take part in the procession, and the city also pulled her from public events. "It was one of the first times, as an adult, I began to grow up and realize what racism is," she told the Pasadena Star-News.

"You can imagine the slap in the face that is," she added.

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Despite the injustice finally being corrected 56 years later, the city of Pasadena still has yet to issue a formal apology to Williams. "We didn't dwell on what happened in the past," Mayor Bill Bogaard said about a lunch he recently had with Williams.

As the Star-News pointed out, the city of Pasadena continues to have its moments of racial injustice since denying Williams her rightful honor. Pasadena schools were not desegregated until 1970 under court order, and the city dealt with its own police shooting of an unarmed black teenager when Kendrec McDade was shot earlier this year.

Williams said that finally receiving this honor now is especially poignant in light of the events across America in the past year, and is also happy she has a happy ending to tell a great-grandchild, due to be born next month. With the theme of this year's parade being "Inspiring Stories," it was fitting for organizers to finally give Williams her due.

"The recognition I would've received then, I think, is more impactful now than it would've been then," she told ABC 7.