What an eerie feeling to realize you lived history, a violent one, but somehow escaped harm. I just read a story about an 81-year old white man in Alabama implicated in the murder of a white preacher from the north who was marching for civil rights for black people. The now deceased man was acquitted by an all-white jury in about an hour and a half. And this occurred in 1965.
I was in high school, and I think that is the year my family took a car trip through the deep South on our way to the New York World’s Fair.
We met with no outward hostility whatsoever, but maybe some suspicion. A gas station attendant did make note of our California license plates. And at the service station there were as I recall restrooms for whites and others for “colored” people.
At an Arkansas cross roads I saw a wagon pulled by a team of mules with two black people in bib overalls riding atop it.
In Winston-Salem, North Carolina we ate at a lunch counter. A man with red freckles and a short brimmed hat with a small checker design without introduction as I recall told us he thought that if white people and black people were supposed to live together God would not have made us of a different color.
In Virginia I saw a white farmer in a tobacco field behind a horse-drawn plow, and I don’t think he was Amish.
But like I said, all was peaceful on our trip.
And we had travelled through a violent land in the middle of a great upheaval where long oppressed black people, descendants of slaves, were demanding civil rights and those more comfortable with the then status quo were resisting, sometimes in a deadly manner.
Racism of course existed everywhere in the nation, and it survives today. But the South had a history of it being officially institutionalized.
But besides from all that I think I got a glimpse of the Old South, kind of like William Faulkner wrote about.
I thank my parents for being adventuresome enough to have taken the trip.
The story that reminded me of all this was: