Living in a segregated society – my reflections
MOLLIE F. BELT | 2/23/2015, 2:53 a.m.
I remember our teachers at Lincoln High School preparing us to live in an integrated society and go to integrated schools. Our English teacher trained us to write with a fountain pen and we could not make mistakes – today, I still will not use a pencil. She told us we would have to write with fountain pens (ink pens) when the schools integrated. She was preparing us to go to a place where she had not been. She had only attended Negro schools, including college, and had had no experience in a White environment.
When I graduated from Lincoln in 1961, I went to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia – a Black college for girls. We traveled from Dallas to Atlanta on the train. It was dangerous at that time, but we didn’t know it. A group of students – about six of us would travel together for safety reasons. We would ride the train from Dallas to New Orleans, Louisiana, in a segregated coach. In New Orleans, we changed trains to the Southerner train. Because this train traveled from New Orleans through Atlanta to D.C. it was against the law to have separate coaches for Negroes. We had to purchase reserved seats on this train and our parents always tried to get us seats next to each other to avoid any problems. But in cases where a Negro was seated next to a White person, the White person would sit in the lounge of the train rather than sit in the seat next to the Negro student.
When we arrived in Atlanta, there would be people from the colleges to meet us. It was not safe to get in a cab. While at Spelman, we were not allowed to go downtown, to the movies or anywhere else, unchaperoned. I resisted these rules while at Spelman – didn’t realize it was really for our safety. Exchange students, who were White, attending Spelman from all-girls’ schools in the North – i.e. Vassar, Wellesly, Sara Lawrence – were allowed to go and come from the campus as they chose. The Spelman dean’s explanation was not satisfactory for me. She said the Negro girls needed to be protected because we had not had the experience of being on our own. She never talked about the dangers facing Negroes. I wanted to be independent and thought when I left high school things would be different. I felt that Spelman was an extension of what I left in Dallas.
In 1962, I began attending the University of Denver. That was the end of my experience living in a segregated society.
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