Pershing was born to Madison and Ottie Foster in Monroe, LA. He was the youngest of four, in order, Madison (Doctor), Leland (aka "Woo"), Emylin (aka "Gold"). Emylin twin sister, Evelyn died as an infant.
After attending Leland College for 2 years after high school, Pershing starts Moorehouse College.
Pershing met Alice at choir practice. She is the daughter of a wealthy family. Her father was the president of Atlanta University. He had doubts about Pershing's ability to fit into the bourgeois lifestyle that he lived and his daughter was raised in, but Pershing won him over.
They married on Alice's parents 22nd anniversy
Pershing finish's med school and moves to St. Louis to do his residency. Alice and Bunny stay with Alice's parents in Atlanta
Pershing was promised a head surgeon position in Austria as a member of the United States Army. Jim Crow followed him there, as his commanding officer was from Mississippi and told him there were no head surgeon position. He was able to make a name for himself in the Army because he was smart, charming and a talented doctor.
When Pershing left the Army, he returned to the South where his service didn't make a difference. He was still living within Jim Crow. He didn't want to return to Atlanta because Alice's parents already had too much say in their lives and he refused to be a doctor in Monroe because he could not practice in the town hospital.
As Pershing makes the trip out west he discovers that along the way he realizes that racism is still rampant even when Jim Crow is not in effect. He is denied lodging in New Mexico and Arizona. He makes it to San Diego and is able to take a shower and shave for the first time since New Mexico.
Robert was having a hard time establishing himself in LA as a surgeon and so he took a job with an insurance company to try and make ends meet and establish himself. Although he felt it was "below him" he became someone that patients wouldn't forget in order to make a name
Alice moved to Los Angeles with Robert, but it wasn't smooth. They had been married 12 years but had not lived together as husband and wife. It was a constant reminder to Robert that they came from different stations in life and that chasm was deep and wide. Robert felt that Alice's parents were still running his household.
In mid to late fifties, Robert is given admitting privileges to most of the hospitals. He is still plagued with the differences between himself and the white doctors when they talk about Vegas and other privilages they enjoy that he can't.
Robert, and 12 others, were able to go to Vegas (a previously segregated town). He had heard the other doctors talk about it, and wanted to go so bad. He did initially suffer the same indignity he had on his way to California but eventually they got a room at the Sands Hotel and were able to enjoy themselves.
The Fosters welcomed their third baby girl into the family.
Robert and the family moved into a house in April of 1956. They moved into an already integrated neighborhood so Robert didn't have to endure the political mess of being the first black family.
Robert meets Ray Charles and becomes his doctor and lifetime friend. Because of their similar background from the hurt they endured in the south.
Madison came to California for gallbladder surgery at Roberts request. Madison then died after the surgery because a blood clot had dislodged. Robert blamed himself, as did the people of Monroe and Madison's wife Harriett.
Ray Charles wrote "Hide nor Hair" with Dr. Foster's name in it. Bob's practice took off.
Alice's father died of a heart attack and Alice's mother moved to Los Angeles with Alice and Robert
Robert, still living with the sting of rejection and Jim Crow throws himself a party for turning 52.
Robert gets sick and is diagnosed with cancer. Ray Charles comes to visit and bring him steaks.
Barbra, Dr. Beck's wife, comes to visit Robert after he goes into a coma, showing that they have developed a deep friendship and respect for one another.
Gold dies because due to drinking. Robert misses her and always feels like he wanted to protect her but couldn't, not even from herself.
"The Great Migration" was when 6 million African Americans moved from the South to the North and West. This was in part to find suitable employment, but for most to escape the oppression of Jim Crow laws.