I am old enough to remember pre-integration days in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Segregation to me, as a young boy, seemed perfectly normal. It was dimply how things were done, how things were, and, since our neighborhood, Crescent Hill, was completely white, I seldom saw a “Negro” unless I rode the bus downtown or went through the black neighborhood in West Central Louisville. In my mind, “they” hardly existed.
Our schools were segregated, of course, but so were churches, theatres, restaurants, parks, amateur and professional sports, restrooms, trains, swimming pools, water fountains, neighborhoods: everything. When Negroes got on a city bus or trolley car, they automatically moved to the rear before taking a seat.
Such was true throughout the American South and in parts of the North, as well. As late as the early 1960s, for example, I visited a small town in Northern Indiana that had signs posted at the city limits warning Negroes that they had to be out-of-town by sunset — believe it or not!
When I was a boy of about twelve, I was with my mother visiting her sister in Washington, D.C. As we were leaving D.C., we crossed over the Potomac into Arlington, Virginia on a Trailways bus, and the driver pulled into a small parking area. Now that we were entering “The South,” all the black riders who had been sitting near the front of the bus had to get up and move to the rear — while all the white riders who may have been sitting in the rear had to move closer to the front. Then the bus continued on further south.
It seems unbelievable to me today, but that is how it was. I guess that is one reason why I’m still a little surprised when someone who did not live back then tries to tell me that not much has changed since those pre-integration days.
Many racist attitudes are still in place, to be sure; but in a legal sense, the changes have been very great; indeed, and who would say the changes have not been for the better!