Sunday, March 19, 2006

Jim Crow Rides the Train - Chicago Train Memories Part II

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I realized, when I started writing down my memories of riding the trains back and forth to and from Chicago, that I did not have a clear recollection of seeing any African American passengers on the trains, as I was not really very conscious of color at that time. I just accepted such things as being the way they were.

So I asked my 101 year old Daddy about how "Colored" people rode the trains on North/South routes during Jim Crow Segregation times. He says that some conductors enforced the Jim Crow laws vigorously, but others were not such sticklers. The normal practice, according to him, was for colored people to be seated in designated cars while traveling below the Mason-Dixon line. Once that line was crossed, the signs were taken down, and those passengers were expected to move to any part of the train they chose to occupy. The reverse would happen with a train traveling South.

When I was 8 years old, I was allowed to travel to Chicago almost by myself. I put it that way, because only our maid, Sadie, went with me. I didn't understand at the time why my parents bought her a brand new, fancy maid's uniform. I understand now. It was for Sadie's safety.

These memories give me an overwhelming sense of sadness. But I am glad that the children and grandchildren of those "colored" passengers no longer have to change into second class citizens on crossing an imaginary line on the map.

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