Growing in Up in Aurora, NC – Segregation

When we saw a show on the "History Channel," recently, about the incident in the 1960s, it said there was a water source, "Only White." This brought back memories of being a young boy in the 1950s and 1960s.

Life in segregation in eastern North Carolina grew during the 1950s and 1960s. Because it was primarily a rural agricultural area, a large percentage of the population was "colored". At the time, it was a smart way for African-Americans to oppose the "N" word, which was also widely used. Segregation affected every aspect of life. You knew the unwritten rules and you followed them.

One event that I remember happened at a funeral of my grandson. Some of the blacks who worked for him for many years asked Granddaddy if they could go to the funeral. He said yes. When they entered the church, they sat in the back hole. I still remember the people in the next queue getting up and moving. When my grandmother died in the 1980s she worked for them and the black woman who helped for many years sat with her family. Different times.

I still remember the signs on the water fountains / fridges in Washington and other towns that were referred to as "White only" and a few, out of place, were "Unique in Color". This had always been his job at Grandpa's farm. All the people who worked for him were black except me. When our dad was working on a hot day, our grandfather would put water in a gallon glass and pass it around, drinking the same glass. When you left the area the rules changed and you were white and then they were coloring again.

There was a "single white" sign in all public restrooms and restrooms. I remember behind the "dime shop" on Main St, Washington, where there was a wooden building, "it was only colored" and they told me they were toilets.

Many outlets had dining areas but were "white only". You never saw people of color. Usually there was a small corner of the desktop that they could order "to go", but they couldn't fix it while they waited. This is one of the reasons that have become the target of the early civil rights goals.

I remember going to the movie theater and the blacks had to place it in a small section on the back of the balcony. This was to buy tickets that went to a special entry called "One Color". It was unusual, because the "Colored" entrance and waiting rooms for bus and train stations, doctor's offices and hospitals are separate. Nearly all public places and businesses were separated.

When the county fair came to town in the fall, you didn't see the black people there. One day in the week long event was that one of the colored people was determined to go and you are not new to that day.

All of this started to change slowly, but with no problems. People on both sides were very vocal, whether the opinion was right or wrong. When I was 13 or 14, I reported that Aurora High School would begin partial integration next school year. I remember when this was negative there was also a big KKK rally going on in the aurora area. Times were changing and nothing was going forward. The following year Aurora High School was partially integrated.

Even though only 12 black children coming to our school were major changes. The kids were from the Porters Creek area and I worked with some of them on Grand Dad's farm, but I never recognized them. I still remember the first day they got into school and we all look at what happens after watching the integration problems on TV. Thinking back you might see fear in both black and white children as our world is changing. There has been no problem that day and for the next two years. We were lucky that the change went well as some schools did.

Then in September 1968, full integration began. SW Snowden High School, a formerly colored school, became a primary school for grades 6 through 6. The Aurora Baccalaureate was re-converted to grades 7 through 12. There were no real problems. There were many changes in the thinking of many people that both sides had to do. Once we were fully integrated, white children were approximately two out of every two white students who became a minority. It was different.

Even integrated schools built on old beliefs and ways. I played basketball in high school and we went from all white teams to Craig and I was the only white guy on the team. This made interesting comments that all the schools in the area were white, which we did not integrate at all. One of my good friends at school and basketball was Kelvin. We played ball for three years and became close friends in practice and school. I never asked to come to my house or ask to hang out with other friends, because deep down I felt that this was not the case. Old ways are difficult to change, and I look back and think about how ridiculous these beliefs were.

A friend / classmate told me another story at the time that they were harsh attitudes. He was an animator living near the school. Another cheerleader, our friend and black, did not return to school for play, so he would set foot in the school playground for several hours. A friend of mine would ask her mother if she could come home, but her mother refused to tell her neighbors what she would think. My friend made a sandwich for both of us and would go back to school and wait for her in the steps.

Many people would like to forget this and remove it from our minds and our history. However, it is our history. We need to remember our good times and bad times, not to dwell on them but to learn from them. The forgotten or lost history has a way of repeating itself until it learns the truth from it. Slavery, segregation and the abuse of our human beings must be remembered. Teach our children not to make the same mistakes again.

That was also part of Aurora NC's growth.