James B. Ewers Jr.: What I learned growing up in the segregated South

www.faithandleadership.com | 8/28/1963 | Staff
HelloimMeHelloimMe (Posted by) Level 3
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To this day, I don’t like German shepherds.

When I was growing up, my parents and I picketed in front of the K&W Cafeteria in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to protest segregation. Then, as now, police dogs were German shepherds, and at those protests, I got close enough to see the menacing look in their eyes.

Picket - Lines - Picket - Signs - Part

Picket lines and picket signs were a part of my adolescence. So was segregation. I was born into it, and many of my formative years were spent in the cradle of “separate but equal.”

My hometown of Winston-Salem was defined by race. We had a black bus company, black movie theaters, and a black hospital, as well as black schools. Race was the sticking point and the dividing line in my early years.

Black - People - North - Carolina - Approval

Black people in North Carolina were marginalized. We required approval. Whatever we sought to do, we always needed one more signature or needed to see one more person before anything could be finalized. And even then, we were often denied whatever opportunities might have been available.

That formally ended 55 years ago this summer -- on July 2, 1964 -- when the Civil Rights Act that abolished legal segregation was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Years - Education - Joy - People - Options

Since then, I have spent 40 years working in higher education, and I’ve had the joy of working with many young people. Compared with our options then, the opportunities for young people today seem endless. Yet I still think today’s youth can learn from the past, no matter how oppressive it was.

As the anniversary of the landmark legislation approaches, I have been reflecting on my experience growing up in the 1950s South, with the aim of sharing with a younger generation what I learned from it -- beyond a fear of police dogs.

Value - Education - Education

The value of education. Education was valued in...
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