You couldn't go there; you couldn't ride there; you couldn't sit there while waiting to ride there.
|Jim Crow Bus Station Waiting Room|
Keeping people in their places was the nature of Jim Crow laws, which controlled every aspect of American life, including travel on the nation's buses, trains and certain roadways in the South.
Discrimination and racial oppression was not always about color, but about difference and misunderstanding.
Rights as basic as driving on certain highways, using restrooms while traveling, eating during a trip, sleeping at hotels and rest stops at roadside parks or seeking medical attention if involved in an accident were denied races of color and some races of different religion, language and culture, regardless of color, depending on the attitude of the community through which they were traveling. These were the signs of the times.
This is not ancient history as many may wish to believe. The denial of human rights, taking place even to this day, is a carryover from the old Jim Crow laws that had their origin during past centuries. Traditions die hard and, with the help of insensitive people, some find a way of mutating into less obvious offenses. But before we jump to today, let examine our topic as it affected thousands throughout the 1960s.
In the case of Jim Crow city bus services, the driver decided who sat down and who stood, and where customers entered or existed the bus. That constituted Jim Crow laws, exactly the same laws that regulated other pseudo public facilities like restrooms, where people in charge of the place made the decisions as to whom would be allowed to use the service, the entrance they would be allowed to enter and leave and whether or not and how their waiting room and restroom needs would be accommodated.
Decisions on access to facilities, accommodations and services were based on race, skin color or ethnicity, as Jim Crow laws applied . People of most ethnic groups--African American, Asian, Hispanic, Mediterranean, Jewish, Native American and others, many with white skin--could not pass the subjective racial test of Jim Crow law sympathizers. Colored was the category reserved for those who were of a dark-skinned, other non-white ethnicity, foreign undesirable groups, and people known to have at least one drop of African blood.
Jim Crow laws established separate but equal in (Plessy v Ferguson 1896). Businesses were obligated to provide facilities for all races and ethnic groups. Although Plessy was intended to prohibit black rights, the law also was applied to other people who did not fit the definition of white, and businesses serving whites only were not obligated to provide restrooms for patrons they considered to be non-white.
Although U.S. airline travel was not officially segregated, the price of tickets kept most poor people off of airplanes. However, African Americans who could afford to fly were often bumped from their flights by the airlines in favor of a white passenger who needed the same schedule. African American airline passengers also were moved to undesirable seats if a white passenger either wanted the seat or refused to sit beside a black passenger. Because there was an internationally famous entertainer in the music and movie business in my family, I heard stories about his travel difficulties. Rather than tolerate irregular treatment on his concert tours, he hired private airplanes for himself, his band, cast and staff.
Black and colored female domestic workers were segregated by race and subject to unwanted sexual advances in homes of their employers. Economic intimidation was used to discourage these female workers from complaining, and if they did protest, their men, children, churches and communities were terrorized or burned in retaliation.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott, a movement to equalize local transportation in American cities, helped to dismantle Jim Crow laws across the nation.
|Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King|
Montgomery Bus Boycott Mugshot
In 1954, the same year of Rosa Parks led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Supreme Court ruled on Brown v the Board of Education. I had been unable to read any part of the articles, not having yet entered first grade. However, one year later after the Montgomery Bus Boycott, with my mother's assistance, I was picking my way through new articles about Rosa Parks and older coverage of Brown. Since that time, I have read extensively from a scholarly perspective on the Civil Rights Movement and also examined resources available for young students.