“Learn About” Questions
- Why were there ‘whites only’ water fountains during this time?
- What are Jim Crow laws?
- What was the segregated bus arrangement from this time?
“Learn From” Questions
- Do I have any memories of not being able to participate in something because of certain rules? What are those memories and what was the experience like?
- Have I ever felt excluded from a group of people? What created the exclusion, and how did I handle it?
- Was there ever a time when I wanted to join an activity or group but wasn’t allowed to because of something beyond my control?
But I thought, you know, for a long while, that everybody grew up in that kind of environment. And the first time that I really thought about being black was when I went to a store in Little Rock with my mother and it was Blass, which was a pretty big department store, and I wanted to, you know, it was a hot day in Little Rock and I needed a drink of water. And I saw this water fountain and I stopped to drink out of it. Well, it turns out it was the ‘whites only’ water fountain as opposed to, you know, Jim Crow and segregated water fountains. And I thought, my imagery as a 6-year-old, was that this hand came out of the sky, it seemed very big and it was probably the size of Big Bird and, you know, admonished me for drinking out of that water fountain and I couldn’t do that and couldn’t do this and I didn’t understand. But I knew enough to know that this was something I wasn’t supposed to do. And, my mother just said, you know, come on, let’s go. So, you know, at 6 years old was my first encounter with segregated life. Now, you know, as you grow older, you are obvious to some things, that you are going to a school in which there are no white kids. And our neighborhood was integrated to some degree. I mean, there were whites living near us. There was occasionally we played with white kids. And around 6 or 7, when you start pairing off at school and other activities then you begin to notice that. You know, this is a stratified, segregated existence. Because my mother didn’t drive, occasionally we took the bus and Little Rock still had the segregated bus arrangement that if blacks boarded the bus in the back, whites in the front and if it was a day in which you had some white person who would get on the bus and if there were no seats for them, the rule was that if you were black, you had to get up and give your seat to somebody white. It didn’t matter age, you know, how tired you were, that was the rule that you had to abide by and if you didn’t abide by it, they could call the police and force you to do it. But even with what I call the petty inconveniences of segregated life, I thought I had a pretty decent childhood.