MY TESTIMONY OF GROWING UP IN THE SOUTH IN THE 1940s/50s!



Yesterday I watched an interesting video from PragerU.  It began briefly with Candace Owens addressing the issue of the political parties in the South during the first half of the 20th Century (1901-1960) and the myth that the Republican party was the villain responsible for slavery and segregation in the South.

Then Carol Swain, Professor of Political Science and Law at Vanderbilt University explains the true nature of segregation, racism, and Jim Crow Law in the South following the Civil War and into the first half of the 20th century.  The villain:  the Democratic Party. 

This was the spark which led me to share "My Testimony Of Growing Up In The South In The 1940s/50s!"  During that time being Southern was almost synonymous with being Democrat.  During those years the South was predominately Democrat and segregation was a given.  In the public schools there was the policy of "separate but equal."  However, the "equal" part never came to fruition for the black schools. 

In my home in Sheffield, Alabama, when I was a youth and a young teen - I am proud to say that I never saw nor heard any segregationism, racism, or other such negative thoughts or words in my home.  Maybe it was because we were poor and could relate to other folks, such as blacks, who were also poor. 

Yes, I saw the signs of racism and segregation all around me in our city and community during those years - separate schools, white and black drinking fountains, bathrooms, waiting rooms.  Even separate sections of our local theaters.  Segregation was all around me and I just accepted it as "this is the way the whole world is structured."   What used to amaze me was that whites would not eat in a cafe or restaurant with blacks - but saw no problem with blacks preparing and serving their food.  I am, and always have been, convinced that prejudice is a learned trait, it is not in our DNA.  And it is most often passed down from older generations who inherited it from their elders.

We see that same kind of racial/religious discrimination in the Muslim world today.  How often have we seen young Muslim children who were taught from birth to hate Jews, Americans, and all non-Muslims.  Those children are not born with that hatred, it is taught to them by their parents and elders.

Yet when I went into the Air Force in June 1955, our Basic Training Flight of 60 young men was a good mixture of whites and blacks, from Alabama and Florida.  After Basic Training I went to the Air Force Radar/Electronics Tech School in Denver.  That was the first time for me to walk in a city where the facilities were not labeled "White and Black" - and I was thrilled to see this.  My initial thought was, "Wow, the whole world is not divided black and white!" 

In my Air Force Tech School class the friend with whom I competed to be top grade in our class - was a black guy from Chicago, Albert Hawkins.  Albert stayed ahead of me because I went dancing at the USO every evening - and he stayed in the barracks and studied.  At the end of our six months training, Albert was number one in the class and I was number two.  He deserved it.

During our six months of training, I tried to get him to go to the USO with me.  Not so that I could beat him in class standing, but because I liked him as a friend and wanted to share that fun with him.  When he told me he could not dance, I told him, "No way, there is no such thing as a black man who cannot dance!"  Was I being racist when I said that?  Of course not, he was a friend - and I honestly had never met a black person who could not dance - even today, except Albert. 

After Tech School, I was sent to Korea and there my best friend was Bob White, a very talented black guitarist.  We had bunks side by side and shared his record player to listen to music.  He taught me to love jazz, Ella Fitzgerald, and the scat singing she popularized.  Scat singing was the "rap music" of the 40's/50s/60s and is still popular in jazz circles today.  Bob formed a Jazz Trio and played on the Osan Air Base radio station.  In the evening I would go with Bob and his trio to the music room in the back of the Enlisted Men's Service Club while they practiced.  Picture this - a black guitar player, a black bass player, a black piano player - and their total audience was one skinny white kid from Alabama.  I loved those evenings.

And I have to admit that when we were leaving Korea and being transferred to Bergstrom AFB in Austin, Texas - it never dawned on me that we could not continue to be friends.  At the base terminal when we were waiting for our plane to Japan to meet our ship home, Bob told me, "You do realize that when we get back to the states, we cannot run around together."  

That hit me like a ton of bricks.  Why?  I was angry, not at Bob - but at the situation in America in 1957 which said that Bob and I could not be friends when we came home from Korea.  Just imagine, I was a white guy from Alabama, it was 1957, and it never dawned on me that we could not be friends at home.  It took a black friend from from Detroit to bring me back to the reality of America in the 1950s.  After the Air Force when MoTown Records hit the music market, Bob was one of the founding members of their inhouse band, the Funk Brothers. 

All of this is to say that I grew up Southern, and by default Democrat in the 1940s/50s - but was not raised to be prejudiced, nor have I ever been prejudiced against anyone because of their skin color.  I may not like a person because he is a jerk - but it has nothing to do with his skin color.  I even voted for John Kennedy in 1960.  But when the Democratic Party nominated Lyndon Johnson for president in 1964 - that very day I went out and re-registered Republican.  And I have been a registered Republican since that day. 

Have I always voted party-line Republican?  No, for in the 1960s/70s and into the 1980s - both the parties, Republican and Democrat, consisted of Liberals, Moderates, and Conservatives.  At that time I voted for the person and issues, not the party-line.   And I have to admit, but with a red face, that I even voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 - mainly because I felt that Bush, Sr. was not a strong leader.  However, I can proudly say that in the next presidential election I did NOT vote for Clinton.

Today the two parties are clearly divided.  Democrats are Liberal and most are Liberal Socialists.  And Republicans tend to be Conservative.  Today I vote strict party-line Conservative - all the way.

I stand strongly with Carol Swain, Professor of Political Science and Law, Vanderbilt University - and proudly call her a kindred spirit.  I like the way she thinks and strongly urge all my Friends to view this video - and then share it with all your FRANs (Friends, Relatives,Associates, Neighbors).  

Why Did The Democratic South Become Republican?
https://www.facebook.com/prageru/videos/798693920529964/

God bless, have a wonderful, blessed day,

Bill Gray 

Be the first to review this item!


Bookmark this

11 Apr 2019


By Bill Gray
Advertisement