Growing up in the rural South during the Civil Rights struggle of the ‘60s I really didn’t know much about it or Dr. King until I moved North and found the local library.
We went to segregated schools. Blacks were generally poor but loved White folks, while Whites were generally well to do, but hated Black folks. I always wondered why, what did we do to them? They had everything we had nothing but love.
The odd thing about this whole thing was that even though we attended a segregated all Black school I thought the Confederates were the good guys in the Civil War, because the books we learned from were supplied, required and regulated reading by White folks. And the older people, the ones who could read and write knew little of history, other than their own lives.
I still remember how surprised I was when I read about the Civil War and who caused it and what it was all about. I was surprised when I read about the Jim Crow system in the South and the fight to rid the South of the separate but nowhere close to being equal system. We took it for granted.
All I knew growing up was that Blacks went to one school and Whites went to another. They had classrooms and we had one big building with all grades being taught by one or two teachers. Blacks sat in the balcony when we went to the movies and White people always had and Blacks had very little. In other words we didn’t mingle, and most of us didn’t care.
Another thing that stuck out was that no matter how old a Black man or woman was the White folks no matter how young called them by their first names even though Blacks addressed Whites no matter how young mostly by Mr., Mrs., or Miss.
I remember seeing White policemen, firemen, lawyers, doctors, bankers, businessmen, big time farmers, in basically all walks of life I saw White people, but practically all the people I saw in the cotton fields with us were Blacks. The only Black professionals we saw were teachers, and we didn’t see many of them until Brown vs. Board of Education was passed and the White folks built us a nice school to try to slow down the Yanks by showing them how nice they were treating their Negras. It was too little too late, integration was coming, but it didn’t get there before I left for the North.
It was so odd how the lowest and the poorest Whites felt they were superior to Blacks. And those that didn’t hate us still treated us like you would a pet. We like you but you are not equal.
I didn’t know a lot growing up in the South during the ‘60s, but I did know that there had to be something better than the cotton fields. If hard work qualified you for heaven or riches we along with just about every Black person in the hills of Tennessee and throughout the South should have been millionaires. Maybe even billionaires. Blacks worked sun up to sun down, six days a week in the fields under the hot sun.