Saturday, April 17, 2021

‘Traveling Black’, A Look at the Civil Rights Movement in Motion

In 1926, Wilmington, NC to Richmond, VA. Traveling by train, the Jamaican-American writer JA Rogers was forced to ride in a wooden Jim Crow car, which was usually mounted on the back and front of the engine. Steel cars are reserved for white passengers.

Rogers wrote on one side. In this case the “go first” meant that the Jim Crow car served as a buffer for white passengers – from the soot and smoke that exited the locomotive, or from the impact of the crash, when the wooden car The deformation of the creation will be “crushed to crush.”

In “Traveling Black”, Mia Bay’s brilliant history of mobility and resistance, the question of the literal movement becomes a way of understanding the civil rights movement. Bey writes, “Most studies of segregation are largely concentrated in the South, and are more specifically based in the history of particular communities than on the experiences of black people.” “Once one of the most resentful forms of segregation, traveling segregation is now the most forgotten.”

Recent books Candicity Taylor and Gretchen Sorin explore the role of the car in black American life, and although the automobile figures prominently in “Traveling Black,” it shows that mobility came in a broader context of various forms after the movement. Starting with trains, she turns to cars, buses and planes in successive chapters; Each technology was initially introduced by black travelers for its ability to survive the erosion and dangers of the Jim Crow car, only to succumb to the stubborn forces of isolation.

In the infamous case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court gave Jim Crow legal approval to establish the doctrine of “separate but equal”; Bay traced the arc from Plessy to the Freedom Rides of 1961 in 1896, when volunteers traveled on buses from the south to test the 1960 enforcement of another Supreme Court ruling that dictated interstate passengers Should serve without discrimination. “

Bey, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania whose previous books include a biography of Ida B. Wells, is a beautiful narrator, placing Stark bets at every turn, also showing that discrimination was not just a case of prophetic crushing. , And more fidelity, the junk of risk.

Uncertainty and confusion turned out to be “defining difficulties” for travelers, as generations of black Americans tried to navigate a patchwork of separatism laws and customs that not only from state to state but often a special ticket. At the discretion of the collector too, there were wildly different ones. Railway conductor. Black motorists could not be sure if they would find a safe place to stop, an ambiguity that became more pronounced in the north, where the lack of signs of isolation meant whatever the “rules” were. They existed and were vague and ambiguous. As one article stated, “You can never know where the humiliation and shame are.”

For those white people who took it out, the insult appeared as both a means and a destination – a tactic to tell black people about freedom of movement, and in itself a cruel purpose. Prior to the Civil War, strict segregation did not matter much in the South, where white slaves traveled with black people whom they had enslaved. This changed with emancipation, when contested in a public place.

Bay describes companies going out of their way to satisfy the child trigger sensitivity of some white travelers. Apparently not satisfied with accusing black people behind the bus, Georgia and South Carolina tested a seating arrangement that forces African-Americans to ride backward. (The experiment was nixed because it caused motion sickness.) In the era of air travel, planes stopping for refueling in the south allowed white passengers to land so they could have lunch at different airports, while black Passengers had to stay on the tarmac, in a terminal restaurant forbidden to eat.

Credit …Scalp photography

Sometimes discrimination was done secretly from behind the scenes. American Airlines employees should have implemented a special code for black flyers reservations, making it easier to separate passengers on flights and give preference to white passengers on waiting lists. (Reacting to the 1951 lawsuit, American Airlines denied the practice of any discrimination, stressing that “some of our best employees are negroes.”)

All of this story from Bey is seamless, expertly remembering the fine details while providing a prudent glimpse of the big picture. While eliminating formal travel segregation was an indisputable achievement, the methods and purpose of doing so were often more practical than pure. President John F. Kennedy’s special deputy for civil rights used the blurred language of the Interstate Commerce Clause to argue that discrimination in public housing was unconstitutional.

And it was not just the case of white government officials who realized that racist strictures were morally indefensible; They were also feeling the pressure of the Cold War. For a country that was trying to convince the leaders of newly disbanded African countries that the American system was superior to Soviet communism, Jim Crow was a disgraceful embarrassment.

“Traveling Black” concludes with an epilogue on the contemporary reality of underfunded public transit, racial profiling, and foyer traffic stops. In 2017, the NAACP called the “unprecedented step” of issuing A. Travel advice Urge black motorists to take “extreme caution” when driving in the state of Missouri. Her excellent book deepens our understanding not only of where we are, but of our understanding.

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