Resident Carl Brown Shares Memories of the Segregated South

It’s nice, in a difficult time, to report that Collington residents have quietly been sharing, internally by e-mail, memories of the roots of current conflicts.  Theses notes from Carl Brown are perhaps particularly gently helpful.

Having grown up in the still segregated South (West Kentucky) I have many Black/White stories to tell.  Let me recall a few at this time of national reckoning:

          Our small town, Mayfield, had c. 8,000 inhabitants with c. 86% white and c.14% Black.  Schooling was totally segregated with the Black high school dubbed, as was so often the case “Dunbar”named after Paul Lawrence Dunbar (1872-1906), the African-American poet, novelist and playwright.  Of course, I knew none of this while growing up in Mayfield. Just looked it up on Google.

          Mayfield had two movie houses, one named the “Legion” and other the “Princess”.  Both, to the extent that I thought about it at all, were White only.  Only much later in life, after both Anne & I had long since left, did I discover that the Princess did, indeed, accept Blacks by a side entrance which led to the balcony.

          My most poignant story concerns the rightly celebrated African-American historian John Hope Franklin.  I met him in the mid-sixties at a Daedalus-organized conference that resulted in the book, Color and Race (1968) that he edited.  Trying to engage him in conversation I pointed out during a coffee break that we had both received part of our higher education in Nashville, TN, he at Fisk, I at Vanderbilt.  

          He put me in my place by pointing out that he had visited Vanderbilt only once – to take an examination for one of the many fellowships that he won during his distinguished career.  While seated for the exam John Hope Franklin was accosted by a Black janitor who quietly whispered to him, “You are the only Black man I have ever seen sitting down here at Vanderbilt.”

We have come a long way on race relations in my lifetime, but as the tragic incidents of the last few days attest we still have a long way to go.

Surely well put.

One response to “Resident Carl Brown Shares Memories of the Segregated South

  1. jeanne_barnett2010@comcast.net

    Carl Brown’s memories brings back memories to many of us who experienced something of those ‘dark ages’, mine returning to my first visit to the South in the summer of 1953 as a member of a Quaker (American Friends Service Committee) International Student Seminar held on the campus of Guilford College, a Quaker school in Greensboro NC. We were definitely a colorful group of recent college graduates of ‘many ‘shades’, including Harlem Globe Trotter Jeep Smith and other African Americans as well as some darker skinned participants from Africa and the Middle East, India and the Far East. . We had a grand time together but could never go beyond campus boundaries to eat together in local eateries – nor when we traveled around the state in a bus could we use the same restrooms and spent our nights on the floor of the few churches that welcomed us with open arms.

    Perhaps a piece of ‘ancient history’ in my life that I shall never forget.

    JBB (Jeanne Barnett)