Skip to comments.For those old enough to remember...
Posted on 07/06/2012 8:21:02 AM PDT by MNDude
I am curious, how were race relations before LBJ's great society? Would you have walked, relatively safe, down the streets of Harlem back in 1960?
By 1969 the Black Panthers had started to raise awareness of Black Pride in these neighborhoods. I will always remember the day that I was stopped at a traffic light, car window rolled down, and a black middle-school-age kid came right up to the car and yelled "honky, honky, honky", to my face. My reaction was to laugh! When I recall that incident I wonder what that kid thought of my response.
I grew up in a town called Magnolia, NJ and graduated High School in 1962. When I turned 16 between my sophmore and junior year I began working as a caddy at Woodcrest Country Club in Cherry Hill, NJ which was 5 miles away. I either hitched a ride or had to walk along Evesham Ave to get back and forth since I couldn’t drive yet. Between the two points I had to pass through Lawnside, NJ. Let me tell you it was the mecca for all the Phila and NJ blacks to come for BBQ, drinking, dancing and party. Boy did it smell good with all the chicken and ribs. I walked through there and was never threatened in the least. Several times I was offered food or a soda. There were at least 2,000 people there at any time over the weekend and it was all good. It was very different back then.
LBJ changed all that. Lawnside has since shut down the picnic grounds and the bars, etc. It is pretty much poverty there now. Nothing is the same.
Coming from the "Whitest" State (Vermont) in the Union, I had little if any interaction with Blacks (what they were called back then) and did not have a racist bone in my body as was the case with most Vermonters.
My HS, albeit small (maybe 200 students) had one black student and the town I grew up (some 7,000) had one black family.
Thus when I got to basic at Lackland, I was shocked at the undercurrent of racism, though nothing overt or any real problems.
THEN, I got stationed (after tech school) to Tachikawa AFB, Japan and things got really "interesting."
Though there were some blacks who I worked and lived with in the same (Quonset Hut) barracks and though there was no obvious problems, when not working, we each went our separate ways.
"They" had their own gate they went out of with "their" bars, restaurants, laundry's and "ladies" they frequented and mostly hung around together; we "Caucasians" had our own as well and no one made a big deal about it and after a while, we simply took it for granted.
After returning from Nam in 67, all hell had broken loose.
I got stationed at Bergstrom AFB (Austin) Tx and from there to DC in 68 for 6 months to attend OSI (Office of Special Investigation) School.
We were "encouraged" to not venture "Downtown" and even the Washington Police patroled in pairs with many having a big dog in their cars.
Later on got stationed at McGuire AFB in N.J. and then (living close to Philadelphia and occasionally going there to visit) is when I first was exposed to Black on White racism and palapable dislike, at times, bodering on "hatred."
Think conditions mostly improved for a while, but seem to have gotten worse again as when vacationing in Florida this past Winter, I did make a consicous decision to avoid certain sections of Tampa as they were not considered "Safe." Don't know about the rest of the country, but from what I read, there appears to be a lot of attacks by African Americans on whites which are unprovoked and much more prevalent than the opposite.
The laws against interacial marriage was statewide as were the restrictive covenant laws.
Wasn't that a HUGE success?"
Grace Slick was one hell of a singer, but the band didn't do so well.
I don’t know about up north but in Atlanta, 1960s, I roamed all over the city at night as a teenager. This, however, was before Maynard Jackson was elected.
Today, I doubt I’d drive through Atlanta off an expressway, even with my truck-stashed 45 and beaucoup mags, unless I absolutely had to go somewhere there..
I posted this article by Dr. Manning two years ago - more relevant now than ever. Just to get an idea of how different it was, look at pictures of the people marching with Dr. Martin Luther King - they were elegant. He would not recognize ‘his’ people today.
I wandered into Harlem in my car while visiting NY in the early '70's. Luckily, there was almost nobody on the street, but I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Scariest place I've been.
My mother’s family moved to Chicago from the South circa 1955; she came to Chicago for the first time that fall when she was on leave. Her family was living out on the west side, which was still predominantly working-class white then, but change was on the move.
The two things her parents quickly told her:
1.) The parks weren’t safe, especially Garfield Park. It was big, beautiful and tempting, but it wasn’t safe.
2.) The black neighborhood of the near west side (the old Maxwell Street/Near West Side) was slowly but steadily spreading west at about 3-4 blocks per summer. When she came to town the “color line” was at California Avenue (2800 west); from there west to Kedzie Avenue (3200 west) was a sort of no-mans land. Her parents told her that if she was on a CTA bus on Madison or Washington that broke down east of Kedzie, not to get off for ANYTHING until the replacement bus showed up.
When her parent’s neighborhood began to change (around 1961-2) things unraveled quickly. Street crime, noisy neighbors, vandalism, harassment etc. all shot up like a rocket. The owner of the upscale Graemere residence hotel overlooking Garfield Park was literally chased out of the park by a mob of black youths in the summer of 1962; he sold the hotel that fall. People felt threatened and got out of Dodge as fast as they could. A friend who grew up a few blocks west and south of there remembered much the same sequence of events; his area flipped within the summer of 1965.
“including the hate, are worse today then back then.”
I totally agree with that.
The saying down south in the 1970 was “up North they like them as a race but hate as individuals, Down South they like them as individuals but hate them as a race.”
A further thought...my father attended Illinois Institute of Technology in the early 1950s. IIT then consisted of two buildings surrounded by the Oakland neighborhood, which had been middle-upper class at the time IIT opened as the Armour Institute, but had since degraded into the heart of the south side “Black Belt”. His take was that he felt safe on campus, but it wasn’t a good idea to go wandering more than a block or two away from it. There was a large apartment complex (the Mecca Flats) nearby that was a known haven for drugs, prostitution and other problem types; everybody stayed well clear of it.
He also recalled that there was a remote entrance to the 35th Street “L” station from 33rd Street, employing a poorly-lit walkway that ran below the “L” structure at about the level of the garage rooftops or back porches. He said that, to use it safely after dark, you waited outside the entrance for several others to come along and then you all went over as a group, or you had to RUN the length of the walkway and watch for the hands that reached out from the rooftops to trip you.
Summer 1967 was the "long hot summer of discontent". It seemed like every major city in the US had race riots. I have to believe that all that anger had been simmering for a long time as a build up to the boil over that year. I can't speak to the streets of Harlem but I was attending college '63 to '67 in downtown Milwaukee and never felt threatened. As a student I used city buses or walked wherever I needed to go for three years before I acquired a car and moved to a southeastern suburb of MKE.
Interesting video by Charlie LeDuff in Detroit on discovering his black roots and learning about racism his family faced in Detroit in the 20s and 30s. Obviously he’s not “black” in any noticeable sense (He’s creole like General Honore)
In fact, gun control in Michigan grew out of a 1925 case where a black doctor (Ossian Sweet) defended himself against an angry mob who were mad that a black man would move into their neighborhood. It led to a push for laws that made it virtually impossible for blacks to own guns in Michigan. (It should be pointed out that a white jury acquitted him)
I used to go to the Federal Theatre often as a boy...the neighborhood was great back then (mid-60s)...I remember it well
It was pretty much the same at Clark AB in the Philippines in the early 60s. Blacks and whites in my squadron got along very well, but when we went into Angeles City, the black guys got off the jeepneys in “their” area and we kept on going to the white area. White troops could only go into the black bars accompanied by a black buddy, and ditto in the white area. There were no racial issues on the base at that time.
Absolutely...In fact, in the late 50's, occasionally fell asleep there (after drinking too much while recovering from all those years in the Corps) with the top down on my 1955 Chev convert...
Have to remember, in NY & New England there was freedom of personal opinion (now referred to as "bigotry") all over the place that encompassed: