Relative comfort despite segregation
McAllister describes some of her experiences with segregation in this excerpt. For example, her mother, a strong-willed woman, forced a short-order cook to fix her a hot meal despite the rules of segregation. But insulated by a nurturing community, McAllister's young life was not marred by the grinding, constant violence of segregation.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Latrelle McAllister, June 25, 1998. Interview K-0173. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
PG: Were you, as you were growing up in, sort of the sixties, were you very aware of segregation and that kind of thing? Is that something that was part of your world or is that something that you didn’t know anything about?
LM: It was something that I didn’t think about, but I was aware of it. It must have been 1962 or ’63, my grandmother moved to California. And, my mother and I and one of her friends took the bus to California. It took us four days and five nights, a very memorable trip. We got off the bus in Jackson, Mississippi. A lady at the lunch counter didn’t want to serve us. To really appreciate this story you’d have to get a sense of what a strong willed person my mother is. She’s very strong willed and very outspoken and she would not tolerate not being served. She stood there with the bus driver’s support until the lady at the lunch counter cooked us a hot meal. She didn’t want to--. She wanted to have us eat cold sandwiches. My mother raised quite a ruckus in Jackson, Mississippi. [Laughter] So, when we got to California my grandmother almost had a fit. She said, “Oh no. Anything could have happen to you all.” I remember my father and my neighbor’s husband cautioning us, “Don’t y’all get off the bus in Mississippi.” They just might as well have told my mother to get off the bus and raise a ruckus because that’s exactly what she did. So, that was my first sense ever of the difference of the polarization.
But, also, growing up my father had worked at a country club. He worked at Charlotte Country Club. He was a server and he talked to me about some of his experiences. My mother had worked at the Hotel Charlotte early in their marriage. So they would share with me some of their experiences. However, because I grew up in a very rich community. Not rich in terms of dollars, but rich in terms of being the type of community that nurtures its children. It really--.
I know that it takes a whole village to raise a child is an African proverb, it could have been one that very well that was true of my community. I attended church. I attended school in predominantly black institutions. There was just a sense of nurturing. A sense of care and concern that, as a child, I just never grew up with a fear for, first of all, what might happen to me because of some racial issues. Nor did I ever suffer in terms of educational experiences or cultural experiences or those types of things that I feel really have enriched me. Part of that may have been due to my parents and their education, their orientation and their desire to have something better for me. But, I never had that.