The Negro and the Church

The Negro and the Church

One of the anachronisms of life in this city is the device used to enforce segregation on the buses: a small wooden sign marked “For Colored Only” with two pegs that fit in slots on the backs of seats. This sign is called a “screen,” deriving from the old days when chicken-wire screens separated the races on the trolleys. Nowadays the screen is moved back and forth by Negroes and whites, depending on available seats, but no matter how crowded the Negro section of the bus there are always twelve seats reserved for whites, since the screen cannot be moved past the first transverse row of seats. White people frequently ask Negroes to move back so the whites can sit; Negroes rarely ask the whites to move forward.

Early this year 72 Negro college students crowded onto an empty bus after an exciting basketball game, occupying all the seats and standing room and ignoring the screen, which one student may have thrown out the bus window. The driver remonstrated with them, pointing out they were breaking the City Segregation Law, which is posted in each bus; the students answered with cat-calls. After stopping to pick up a white passenger (full buses ordinarily do not take on additional passengers), the driver called his supervisor, who called the police, who called the wagon. At the police station the students were all charged with “disturbing the peace.” At the trial the next day the charges were dropped after the driver and white passenger refused to sign affidavits.

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Lima