(1952) No, I can never feel the sadness and angry that black people feel but I could feel it as deep as a boy of 6 years old could ever know in my soul. And I cried like a black man could, when I saw 30 or 40 men standing on the corner of the curb in front of the train station, running out to any vehicle asking for any job, “I can do anything, pick me boss man.”
I know, I see them everywhere but black men were not needed and no one will hire a black man. So they stand on corners ready to work hard for low wages.
I lived in a few places in Macon, Georgia but 2281 Grants Chapel Alley was as white and as poor as we could be. There were three shacks on one side and two others at that time. My house was next to the start of the city street and the Abraham Grocery where we bought our food. Abraham and his family had his home next to ours, still attached on the pavement.
Across the clay road was the firehouse which went on calls all day and night. Next to the back of the firehouse was a little woman who was born in this country in 1861. My granny and I would visit the woman who often sat on her tiny rickety porch. The two old ladies chatted and the old woman would use her snuff. She was born 4 years before Lincoln was assassinated.
I saw much sadness for the poor but the black men had it the worst, meaning there was, for most blacks, there was no future for black people, who also wanted education and good jobs but it was never even a dream. Schools for blacks were shabby and broken down.
When I went to school on Second Street I decided to go by way of Grant’s Chapel Alley, then around back of the church to Second Street, where my school was on the left. I noticed that little black girls stayed at their grannies houses on the porches as I went on to school. Other mothers went to work at the homes of whites while others went to jobs or for the wealthier whites. But men were out of luck.
Men stayed away so the grannies could get their $25 a month to buy food and the fat parts of meat and picked whatever they could to make with anything that was edible. As I walked by, I could see the little black girls on the porch with their grannies, staring at me as I walked by, then, onto the sidewalk and a block north, to a three story brick school. The black children, mostly missed school. But no one cared. Some black children went to another school but I don’t think there was any quality in those black schools.
When I could sit on the porch and look down the aisle of Grants Chapel Alley, I only saw about 8 people in the church. There were the preacher, a deacon and the rest were young girls dressed up. I could here the music from my porch. Afterward, the group stood outside the church and talked, then went home. As the members walked back in the dirty sandy coal, street. I wondered how anyone could feel revived in a truly sad picture of a few people trying to sing praises to God when there really was nothing there to sing praises for anything on Grants Chapel Alley.
The COLORED WAITING ROOM at the train station is still there as a reminder of how it looked. Everything was segregated. I was once in a Newberry’s Store in Macon, Georgia when a black man saw his 3 year old son drinking water out of the water fountain for WHITES ONLY. The father looked around in fear and hoped that no one saw it or might decide to take some action against his son for taking a drink of water. I will never forget how terrible that felt- and maybe someone really might have taken action.
In the morning, I awakened in my room, all doors went through back to the kitchen, all the way to the back. I looked up, a young black man was carrying a big block of ice in a burlap bag from Atlantic Ice. The young man looked at me as he chipped the ice to fit in the ice box. Then he headed for the truck, jumped back to the alley and climbed back up.
I remembered how tiny the shacks were for $6 to $10 a month. I would make friends with some of the grandmothers and I learned a lot of how bad it was for black people (Yes, whites used the word colored). Realtors rented the shacks to grandmothers because they had the only secure monthly income.
The houses for this group of rentals were the same basically. A lady at the curve on the left side of the coal dust street lived there. She was Elizabeth, a really upbeat woman of a large size, in a very small home.
The front room was tiny, about 6 by 10. In it was an old homemade chest, and a rocker. It had a tiny porch if someone wanted to buy a rocker. I noted that there was only a tin roof and some 2 by 4s holding up the tin roof. On cold days, it was cold there. The middle room had a big bed, another rocker and, I found something different, a toilet all by itself on the right side of the bedroom. It was put in by the order of the city of Macon, I believe, to match codes. The officials put the toilets on the right side and to keep it private, a white curtain was placed around the toilet. You could not miss it.
But you couldn’t also miss the sink, back porch, gas stove, storage, and gas tank. Elizabeth had to squeeze on the screened back porch to cook, all outdoor, even in below freezing outside on her porch. The porch was about 4 by 10. But it was only $6 a month.
There was an event, so to say, that happened to me and it went right to my heart. My Uncle Philip came by to our “home”one day and asked me if I wanted to go to the country to pick blackberries. And, of course, I would like to go anywhere nice. Blackberries sounded great and I gathered up a huge bucket of blackberries.
When I got home, I took a large jar of blackberries, and went to Elizabeth’s house and she was delighted to get a large container of berries and she also wanted to buy the glass jar to keep other food good until she could make the pie. We talked a little and I went to the door, and I hesitated, then I left and closed the front door.
A few minutes later, I knocked again, this time I walked to her chair, where she was shelling peas. She said, Child, what you want.
I stood there. Finally I got up my nerve up and looked. I said Aunt Elizabeth?
She looked up and said, what is it child?
I looked up and said, Elizabeth, I’m sorry the way things are.
She had some tears drop from her eyes-and she said, Bless you child.
I looked up and I said once again, goodby Elizabeth, and went home.