Saturday, August 23, 2008

Segregated Bus Station

This is a photograph taken in 1940 in Durham, North Carolina. The picture shows a bus station, but the interesting thing is the sign that reads "Colored Waiting Room". So, I guess the White people and Black people did not sit together.

I grew up in the 60's, and I never remember seeing any segregation situations like this where I was. The community I grew up in was very small, and there was only one or two Black families in the community. I knew 2 or three black children as I was growing up. They did well in school, and I can not remember them being treated any differently than anyone else. The community had a large Hispanic population . . . maybe close to a half the kids in my school were Hispanic. I think where I came from people were busy trying to make a living to put up signs telling people where to sit. It was actually a nice situation to grow up in.

I am curious about what type of segregation situations people from other parts of the country remember seeing. I am not talking about cross burnings and hateful violence, but the subtle things like different restrooms, different seats on the bus and so forth. What were all the ways people remember seeing different races being separated.


  1. I do remember being confused about how to use the buses when I was a child in early 70s Baltimore. It didn't occur to me at the time that all the people getting on by the back door were black. Yes, I was a bit naive but I was never taught hate for a person's skin color so I didn't really notice that back then.

  2. I was a military brat who went to elementary school in Montgomery Alabama, 1957 - 1964. My parents were both native Iowans. There was never any discussion of the racial situation at the dinner table at the time . Maybe elsewhere, out of earshot - but... I was oblivious. Though I do remember the balack and whaite drinking fountains in the Loveman's deoartment store. And the black ladies that sat on little stools and "drove" the elevators!
    I didn't go to school with anyone of a different color until we moved to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska during my junior high school days. My best guy friend at the time was a guy with African American and Cherokee Indian background. Nothing was ever said about it.(Lord have mercy! That would have been scandalous in 1960's Alabama!)

    Thanks for all the memories on your blog!
    ~Mad(elyn) in Alabama

  3. I grew up in the 40's when Hispanics were treated as second class citizens. There were no Hispanic children in our school, they went to a small school in 'Mexicn Town'. They drove old cars , had a bunch of kids, and lived in shacks.
    When I was about ten years old, my family was eating at the only cafe in town, when a Mexican man came in with his thermos bottle and asked the waitress to fill it with coffee. She told him to get out, she couldn't serve Mexicans. He showed her his money and again she refused to serve him. The guy who owned the cafe came up and told the man to GET OUT NOW! Completely fursterated, the guy threw his thermos through the big mirrow behind the counter and left. The sheriff caught him a few blocks away. For several days I saw his car parked at the jail, with his wife and several children living in it until he 'served his time'. The sad memory of this incident has stayed with me forever. Any preduice I knew from growing up in this enviorment was squashed that day. It was outrageous!
    That was over sixty years ago and things have changed, All the old bigots had to die off. The school integrated in 1951 and education changed the course of their lives. Today, they go to college, hold good paying jobs at the hospital, schools, and in local govenment. Equal Opportunity Employment has helped their cause. I have given them my support and love, and my life is better because of it. DD

  4. here are two examples of segregation...

    1. black library, Galveston, TX, circa 1900:

    2. black library, Galveston, TX, 1924:

  5. You "guess" White people and Black people did not sit together? It is disturbing that a person (particularly one with an apparent interest in history) could be so ignorant of what occurred in their own country in their lifetime.

    And you think legally enforced racial segregation was a subtle thing? The naivete of this view astonishes me. I don't know the best oral histories, but an example:

  6. I have to second the last commenter. There was de facto segregation throughout this country certainly up and through the sixties and, in fact, there were segregation signs on the beaches of Los Angeles, so this was not confined to the South. This kind of ignorance is perhaps why it's so difficult for so many to have a critical understanding of racism in this country.

  7. When my children were small, we all went to a church camp where black women did the cooking. On our way home, one of them was riding with us and asked if she could take my girl to a gas station restroom. Though it wasn't necessary for my child, she knew it was the only way she could use the restroom. That was in the 60's...and it was sad.

  8. This response is addressed to the two "Anonymous" comments that were written today (August 25) at 7:58 a.m. and 11:17 a.m., respectively.

    I find your criticism of the author of this website to be rude and self-righteous. If you paid attention to what you were reading, he noted that he grew up in the 60s. The photograph in question was taken 20 years earlier.

    I grew up in the '50s and '60s in New England and never saw any racsim or segregation first hand, even though these issues were always in the news. Of course, we all knew that it had happened in the past and was happening elsewhere in the country.

    I'm sure you are taking the author's statement out of context. In any event, what's the point of criticizing him?

    This website is a fabulous gift to those of us who are interested in history and provide a wealth of information and entertainment.

    You should appreciate the effort he has has put into this website as well as his generosity in making these wonderful photographs available to us.

    I doubt that either of YOU are perfect, so stop being so self-righteous and arrogant. If the both of you are so sure of yourselves, why didn't you print your names???

    People who live in glass houses . . .

  9. I would also like to 'beg to differ' with the two anonymous's - I grew up in California in the 60's, 70's, 80's & 90's. I moved to Alabama in '99. Since '99 I have learned more than I ever knew went on in (mostly) the South during the 60's, 70's (and for that matter well on up to current times). Growing up I learned CALIFORNIA history. It was all about mining for gold and Sutter's Mill. and oh sure, we were taught about the wars in Europe, etc...But I don't remember ever being taught about the Civil rights movement or Segregation/Desegregation. We weren't taught colors out there in another state. We were just people. And we were part of the same great country, just a few thousand miles away. I moved to Alabama just in time to raise my kids in school here. When they would bring their (Alabama) History homework home I would dive in to help them. Often continuing to read long after the homework was done. I was mesmerized and shocked at the horrible things that went on. Quick story - one of my favorites of my dad's - He grew up in a little farm town in Eastern Washington. He was in the Army in '57 and stationed at Ft. Rucker, Alabama. His best friend was from a little town called Oneonta in Northern Alabama. Every time they got a weekend pass, they would take off to his buddy's parents house for a visit. They would get there any way they could. Walk, hitch hike, bus, etc... On one trip, while on a bus, my dad in full uniform stood up and offered his seat to a pregnant black woman. He was just a simple country boy, what did he know....The driver pulled the bus over and kicked my dad off the bus. Unbelievable!! He was shocked. I'm sure he wrote home about that one!
    Keep on telling us your wonderful stories pjm....most of us love them. Ignore the 'rude and self righteous' people out there. Not everyone knows everything that ever happened in the world as they think it should be......

  10. I grew up in Louisiana in the 60's, and racial segregation was overt and the letter of the law until forced desegregation beginning in the later 60's.

    The schools were segregated completely until about 1966, and in Baton Rouge, they bussed the white kids around to the black schools. My neighborhood fell between four school districts, so we were the ones who were used to desegregate various schools. Sometimes we were bussed as far as thirty miles away when there were schools within walking distance of our homes. Some years my bus ride to school was two hours one way, considering the snail's pace buses moved at with all the stops, etc. I often did not get home from school until after five o'clock. Forget playing after school, or any extracurricular activities!

    I remember separate waiting rooms, separate drinking fountains, and black people certainly did not go to the same doctors that white people did! There were restaurants that had signs reading "no colored", and black people were not allowed to use public bathrooms unless they were marked "colored".

    As the schools were desegregated, the poverty that many blacks lived in became very apparent to us white kids. Many of the black kids we went to school with had little or no sanitary facilities at home - at best, piped in cold water that had to be heated for bathing. Often they didn't have that, only a well in the yard or a pump. Very often these children were dirty or smelled, simply because of the terrible conditions they had to live in. Their houses were often shacks on the verge of falling down. Sometimes they literally lived in ancient structures that had been old slave cabins.

    The segregation stopped, at least overtly, in the 1970's, by law, but it continued in many ways. Most workplaces I had never hired black people. There were plenty of restaurants and bars where you never saw a black person. There were black areas of town and white areas, and whenever blacks began to move into a neighborhood, there was immediate "white flight". The town I grew up in, Baton Rouge, continually shifted in demographic distribution because of this. Essentially, many of the schools were still essentially segregated because of the way the neighborhoods were segregated. I knew plenty of kids who never went to school with black kids at all, because of where they lived (not everybody got bussed around like my neighborhood did).

    I left Baton Rouge some years ago, but from what I'm told, it's still very much the same. There are the white areas of town and the black ones, there is a white university, LSU, and a black one, Southern University. Things are a little more mixed, and there aren't waiting rooms and drinking fountains that are supposedly "separate but equal", but the society segregates itself.

    Racism is far from dead in many parts of the country.

  11. Hi! I truly enjoy this site. It's a blessing.
    I must add to this that racial divisions are still very clear in the US. I lived in SC for 6 years, besides of visiting around the South during Christmas break from school from 1995-2001, and was shocked to see how fragmented your society still is. Racial disunity will never end in this world.

  12. I am coming late to this party, so my comment may never be read. I grew up in Baltimore in the 40s and 50s. Segregation was alive and well. When threatened with integration in the mid-50s, many churches opened their own private schools, rather than have the children go to school together. When I graduated in 1960, the public school I attended was pretty well integrated, and I am proud to say that the Episcopal churches in Baltimore integrated very smoothly.

    However, I was in Williamsburg about ten years ago, and we were being given a tour of the new preservation facilities, which were incorporated into the old colored school, when "integration came in during the 70s." My eyebrows almost went over the top of my head! We are talking maybe 20 years of foot-dragging!