Law versus custom in South and North; economic ramifications of protest
The difference between the South and other regions of the country was that while other regions were segregated by custom, the South enforced segregation by law. One law intended to control African Americans' movement prevented people from congregating unless they could prove that they held jobs. Of course, a black man who told a police officer where he worked risked losing that job, as did attendees at civil rights meetings.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Glennon Threatt, June 16, 2005. Interview U-0023. 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
- KIMBERLY HILL:
Sometimes it just still feels overwhelming to think about all of that.
- GLENNON THREATT:
What's overwhelming is that it wasn't that long ago. I'm middle aged,
I'm forty-eight years old and I remember this stuff clearly. So, it
wasn't that long ago. The city has changed a lot in many ways, and in
many ways it hasn't changed. There is no more du jour segregation. The
thing that was odd about the south is Jim Crow. There was segregation in
other places, but it was more custom than by law. Here for instance, if
a white person had allowed a black to eat at a
restaurant he would have gone to jail, not just been ostracized, which
is bad enough. He would have gone to jail, and they enforced that here
in Birmingham. It wasn't like in some places when it was a wink and a
nod, if you went into a white place and tried to order some food they
would put you in jail. The police would come and they would put you in
jail. The Supreme Court case that dealt with loitering came out of
Birmingham. Fred Shuttlesworth was the plaintiff in that case, where
they had a municipal ordinance in Birmingham that said no more than four
people could congregate, unless they could prove that they were
employed. So, they would go anytime there were groups of black people
talking and ask everybody to prove that they had jobs. Then what they
would do if you proved that you had a job, they would go to your
employer and get you fired. That was the same thing that happened at the
churches, the police and the clan would take down everybody's tag
numbers and run them and find out who you were. When they found out
where you worked they would tell them, and your boss would call you in
and say, "What were you doing at that meeting?" and
then fire you.