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NOLA Resistance Oral History Project: Confronting Segregated Spaces


♪ God will ♪ – Schwegmann was the store in New Orleans. It was like Woolworth is now. You could buy anything. But there was a restaurant, I guess, that was a part of
Schwegmann, a lunch counter. But you couldn’t eat at the lunch counter. And there were two water fountains. There was a water fountain, and there’s a pipe that
ran around the other side with a spigot and something
else that said, “Colored.” My oldest daughter, who
was the troublemaker in the family, she says– there was a little white
kid drinking some water– and she said, “I want some water, Daddy.” “I want some water, Daddy.” And I said, “Wow, okay.” So we walked over, I picked her up, and let her drink some white water. So the police officer,
he was standing there acting like he didn’t see it. And so then I decided
to get me some water. And so the policeman,
or the security guard– whoever he was–he looked,
and he saw me drinking water, and he turned his back. So when he turned his
back, I kept drinking. I kept the water running, anyway, and acting like I was drinking. So he came over, and
he said to me, he said, “Hey, buddy, you know better than that.” I said, “Better than what?” He said, “Drinking from this fountain.” I said, “Well, what’s wrong with it?” He said, “It’s for white people.” I said, “Well, today I’m white.” And he said, “Today we’re
taking your black ass to jail.” ♪ Through every day ♪ – [Cassimere] My first memories was the screens on the buses. There used to be a screen that said, “For Colored Patrons Only,” and it moved back and forth. It could go up, except for the two first seats, which were reserved exclusively for whites. For whatever reason, I
hated reading the sign, “For Colored Patrons Only.” And I used to turn the sign around. And I remember I was a
freshman in high school, and one day I turned the screen around. There weren’t many people on the bus. There was an older white man, and there was a black guy in the back. The man saw me turn the screen around, and for whatever reason, it bothered him, even though he sat in front of it. He didn’t have to read it. And he ordered me, as
whites were used to doing at that time, to turn the screen around. And I did not. Coincidentally, two
policemen got on the bus, two white policemen. They were looking for the
guy who was in the back. I don’t know what he had done. And he threatened to have me arrested if I didn’t turn the screen around. Now, they walked past me to get this guy. He didn’t say anything
until after they left. Now, why he didn’t tell them– and then people say, “What would you have done if they had “ordered you to turn the screen around?” I don’t know what I would have done. But they got off the bus. And then he turned around. And he cursed me, said
a lot of bad things, but it didn’t make any difference. I think I was about 13 to 14 years old. And in my mind, that was my first little civil rights victory. ♪ Hold on♪ ♪ Keep your eyes on the prize♪ ♪ Hold on now, why don’t you hold on♪

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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