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 Post subject: Interpreting Segregation (Jim Crow)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2003 8:16 am 

The Washington Post ran a lengthy story about our efforts at National Capital Trolley Museum to preserve the facade of a local hamburger stand. The author included a quote from the project manager on site:

"'If I walked into that Little Tavern when it first started up, I don't know if I would have been served - and it wouldn't have been because I didn't have enough money', said project manager Curtis White, 48, who is African American."

This issue of segregation has surfaced in our discussions at Natioal Capital as we continue to celebrate collective happy memories of segregated destinations such as Glen Echo Park and Griffith stadium.

We are in the planning phase for an exhibit on Route 92 - the "U" street line through Washington's traditional African American shopping and entertainment district during the days of segregation in Wshington, DC.

How do other Museums handle this issue? No flames about political correctness, please.


National Capital Trolley Museum


  
 
 Post subject: Re: Interpreting Segregation (Jim Crow)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2003 11:03 am 

I have not yet personally seen a railroad or trolley museum exhibit which confronted it head on.

In Plano, TX, during ARM, our hosts at the Interurban museum made a point of showing us the metal flags under the baggage rack that were used to move the white/colored line forward or backward in the passenger compartment of their Passenger/RPO combine interurban. But there was not a full exhibit or panel on segregation.

At the Eastern Shore Railway Museum they explain the Jim Crow configuration of their preserved depot on tours, but don't cover it in signage.

That's how I've usually seen it to date--explaining the Jim Crow features of a car or structure during guided tours, but not singling it out in placards and permanent exhibits.

As a native Washingtonian I would love to see NCTM move a little further than this, and devote a panel of its interpretive exhibits to segregation. Do some oral history interviews with African-American DC natives about riding the segregated streetcars, or being barred from Glen Echo. Then edit that testimony, with appropriate context, into an honest panel about what segregation really meant in DC transit history. I think it is good custodianship of DC transit history, and would help the museum seem relevant and immediate to new generations of patrons, who can still connect to civil rights in a way they may not (at least not right away!) to trolley cars.



eledbetter@rypn.org


  
 
 Post subject: Re: Interpreting Segregation (Jim Crow)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2003 11:39 am 

Missed great opportunties so far in the deep south..........

Savannah's Coastal Heritage Society avoided an opportunity to share in the interpretaton of the history of the predominant commercial and social center of the black community - West Broad Street - by failing to reach an agreement to use a streetcar body as an interpretive piece. The same director who blocked that has chosen to rename the two roundhouse washrooms according to location rather than White and Colored.

Efforts to retrieve a Central of Georgia partitioned first class coach which shows alterations made to conform to Jim Crow laws in Alabama and recreate a center baggage compartment Jim Crow car have met with no success.

Obviously, persons uncomfortable with some of what we in this "enlightened" age look back on as less attractive aspects of history are still in a position to allow censored interpretive efforts to reflect that personal discomfort all over. Nice to know it isn't just a southern thing.

Some exceptional work in Jim Crow as pertains to railroading has been done by Ted Kornweibel in San Diego. I am not aware of any other specific work done on the subject. I'd love to find more.

It seems to me the challenge (once getting past the commitment to interpret this part of history is surmounted) is providing enough value-neutral context to reflect what was a simple accepted truth even among the most enlightened persons of the Jim Crow era right up until the Civil Rights era changed our perception of elightenment. It is too easy to label our forefathers of all races as bigoted, ignorant or evil, rather than as average well-meaning citizens of their time.

Acually, given the more recent Civil Rights history, the story to be told is a hopeful and positive one rather than an oppressive dismal one. The complexity of the evolution of accepted values and morality provides an equally important sidelight, and can be a hook to make the history relevant to today.

So, yeah, have given it a lot of thought and sweat and still hopeful.

dave



irondave@bellsouth.net


  
 
 Post subject: Re: Interpreting Segregation (Jim Crow)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2003 11:52 am 

>Some years ago Shoreline Trolley Museum had a restored Jim Crow car from Atlanta as part of the regular guided tour. Jim Crow signs were prominently displayed in the car.

I asked a number of black visitors if they were offended personally by these signs. None of them said they found the signs offensive. Almost all said that the signs should be there so that people today would realize what life was like in the segregated South back then. They said that most people today didn't realize what their parents had to endure.

I realize that this was not a representative sample. I don't think they were telling me what they thought I wanted to hear. Converstaions were all private not overheard by other visitors.

You might contact the local NAACP chapter or Black Studies Department of a local university for an opinion.

fk

fkrock@pacbell.net


  
 
 Post subject: Teaching vs. Making Folks Uncomfortable
PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2003 1:32 pm 

When you get down to the social aspects of railroading there are many stories to be told. Segregation, American Indians, Chinese and Irish workers building the railroads, employment of blacks (or lack of) in many trades, employment of women in many trades, child labor, union building and busting, and the list goes on.

What I am getting at is that railroads are interwoven with the social fabric of America and also many parts of the world. There are a lot of issues that make people uncomfortable and sometimes you learn that in some places these issues are not in the past tense even in 2003.

Telling these social stories can be a challenge and also yield very positive results. The facts are that most tourist railroads are telling the story of what a train ride was like when your grandparents or great-grandparents would have rode a train. The folks who ride these trains are families who come out en mass in sport utility vehicles and minivans. They are out for a train ride and some fun for the kids.

That being said you now have to decide what story to tell and how do you want go about telling it. If you go to the Holocaust Museum you will not find families with 3-7 year old kids lined up to take the tour, it is not what you take a first grader to see.

I am not offering any answers, just some thoughts and questions. I think this is a great thread and am interested in seeing more responses.

Tom


  
 
 Post subject: Re: Interpreting Segregation (Jim Crow)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2003 1:41 pm 

I remember John Hankey talking during his time with the B&O museum and telling about inner city school group visits. These groups were made up of african-american youths.

The museum has a Jim Crow combine and when the school tour group got to that car John would mention the divided nature of the car and the railroad background of the Plessy v. Ferguson court case that established the "separate, but equal." The youths would become wide-eyed and attentive when they heard a white man talk about this court case. The students had heard of the case, but didn't expect this white man to talk about it.

By the way, I found an interesting website that is devoted to the Jim Crow period and designed for educators.

Brian Norden

The History of Jim Crow
bnorden49@earthlink.net


  
 
 Post subject: Re: Interpreting Segregation (Jim Crow)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2003 3:25 pm 

> I have not yet personally seen a railroad or
> trolley museum exhibit which confronted it
> head on.

At NCTM in Spencer, N.C., I remember a docent explaining the partition in the (streamlined) Jim Crow coach that our group was touring, and doing so in neutral language that was neither dripping with liberal guilt nor brittle with factual blandness. Specifically, I recall the guide's phrasing, something like, "...the Supreme Court said you can't do that, that's not legal...," which put it all into context. While the partition may have reflected local values and customs, its legal remedy was a matter of national social policy, the law of the land.

An earlier poster noted Ted Kornweibel's work on railroads and segregation, which seems to be the most extensive in the field to date. It was after hearing a talk by Ted at the Smithsonian that I went home, opened up an Official Guide and found that, just as he said, the rules for black and white passengers were printed in, well, in black and white! CofG (see below) was the most notorious, as I recall, with FEC and SAL getting honorable mention. Other railroads didn't mention it at all, but still had segregationist policies -- the divided seating in IC's Miss-Lou (ex-Green Diamond articulated streamliner), for example, and N&W, which posted rules in the cabooses of mixed trains governing how crews should handle the issue. Many of these practices were put in place to comply with state laws of that day.

If I'm remembering details correctly, CofG did a masterful job of subterfuge by advertising in the Guide and its timetables that its then-new streamlined Nancy Hanks was an all-reserved train, which on its face sounds like a service enhancement . . . then in the footnotes stating that reservations were accepted for white passengers, without mentioning non-white passengers. Translation: If you're black, we want you riding the slower, non-air-conditioned accommodation train, not our new streamliner.

Dan Cupper
Harrisburg, PA

cupper@att.net


  
 
 Post subject: Pullman Cars - interpreting segregation
PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2003 6:00 pm 

Pullman car tours are another excellent opportunity to show visitors how much the world has changed since WW2. I try to have them sit down in a double bedroom or open section, and then talk about traveling by Pullman. Mention that your bed was made up by the Pullman porter, your shoes shined by the porter in the middle of the night while you slept, your bed made up and converted back into a sofa by the porter while you were at breakfast in the diner, baby bottles warmed by the porter on request, etc. People of all races under the age of about 50-60 are amazed at just how hard these men worked on a 2 1/2 to 3 day trip from the West Coast to Chicago. I know one older man whose father was a Pullman porter in the 1920s-1950s. He remembers that his family was better off financially than anyone else in the black community... comments such as "We had grapefruit when nobody else did." I point out that the General (ret.) Colin Powell, former chairman of the U.S. military joint chiefs of staff, and currently U.S. Secretary of State, might well have been a Pullman porter if he had been born 50 years earlier, and comment of the talent that we wasted.

When touring around outside, another effective trick is to have people try drilling into a granite boulder with a 4-pound hammer and a star drill bit (& goggles). It helps if the hole has been drilled a couple of inches already so that the drill bit is self-locating and less prone to fly off sideways when hit. Have them keep sledging away until they're tired. It won't take long. Measure hole depth before and after - the progress is infitesimal. At this point you can talk about the Chinese, Irish, Italian, Greek, Mexican, etc. laborers who had to drill hole after hole for black-power (& later dynamite) blasting the railroad right-of-way through the mountains. I always make the point that these men weren't necessarily big men, but they had to be *%$&! tough professional atheletes to do this day after day, sunrise to sunset, 6 days/week, and their work has stood the test of time for over 100 years. It's enough to make any ethnic group damn proud of their ancestors.

- Doug Debs
- doug.w.debs@fcimg.com


  
 
 Post subject: Re: Teaching vs. Making Folks Uncomfortable
PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2003 6:24 pm 

Valid point Tom if you are a tourist railroad and not a museum. Is your primary mission education or entertainment?

It does our children a disservice to ignore the less palatable aspects of our past because their parents don't want to share that information with them. History wasn't always pretty but if we don't have a clear picture of it including warts and wooden dentures, we are dealing in half truths and potentially setting up for a future including equally unpleasant intolerances of many different kinds.

Value-neutral unemotional interpretation when a visitor is asking the question is the least we owe as an interpretive mission. Soliciting the question can be tricky.......

Dave

irondave@bellsouth.net


  
 
 Post subject: Re: Interpreting Segregation (Jim Crow)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2003 10:02 pm 

> If I'm remembering details correctly, CofG
> did a masterful job of subterfuge by
> advertising in the Guide and its timetables
> that its then-new streamlined Nancy Hanks
> was an all-reserved train, which on its face
> sounds like a service enhancement . . . then
> in the footnotes stating that reservations
> were accepted for white passengers, without
> mentioning non-white passengers.
> Translation: If you're black, we want you
> riding the slower, non-air-conditioned
> accommodation train, not our new
> streamliner.

I am told (by a former ticket and reservation agent) that at least a couple of western railroads would accept various racial customers, but would have their own suttle ways of seating them together (or apart). This was in the 1950s and 60s and many customers would not have been comfortable seating next to someone not of their own race.

One company, when the ticket agent called into the reservation office used different terms such as passenger, patron, customer, etc. to indicate the racial look of their customer. At the other company the ticket fringe that he could not hear the reservation agent and say either "louder" or "louder, louder" to indicate, by example, Hispanic or black. This way he could conduct his phone call in the presence of the customer and they would not know that they were being racial profiled.

So without open segregation they seated the whites together, the Hispanics together and the blacks together.

I have also seen coach reservation cards (I collected these back in 1970-71 just before Amtrak) from one railroad that had "F" and "M" next to each seat space. Probably to allow them to seat single women together, etc. instead of mixing the sexes.

Brian Norden

bnorden49@earthlink.net


  
 
 Post subject: Re: Interpreting Segregation (Jim Crow)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2003 9:32 am 

> How do other Museums handle this issue? No
> flames about political correctness, please.

There's an interesting side benefit to addressing this issue head on. WARNING: frank talk below.

I live in a predominately black county in the South. I've had a firsthand opportunity to see what's important to blacks and what isn't. Generally speaking (and like all generalizations this does have exceptions), black people are interested in church and their culture above anything else. Trains don't often figure into either area, which is why black volunteers at railroad museums are rare.

Exhibits on segregation and/or the employment of blacks by Pullman just might coax a few black folks to a museum over another entertainment venue. You have to be careful, however, because I've also found that many blacks are hypersensitive. If they percieve the exhibit as a token, it'll actually be worse than not telling the story at all.

I'll be honest that I've shied away from such exhibits at SCRM so far. The main reason is because I've got such a poor exhibit facility to work with. When I do an exhibit on Pullman porters (one is in my long-range plan), I want to do it all-out and extremely well. I don't want a exhibit like this to be seen as a token.

The South Carolina Railroad Museum
mconrad@compuzone.net


  
 
 Post subject: Re: Interpreting Segregation (Jim Crow)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2003 9:48 am 

At ARM in Dallas, we visited the African American Museum, in the same Cotton Bowl complex with Age of Steam. They had a display of the Jim Crow signs from the Dallas streetcars.


Electric City Trolley Museum Association


  
 
 Post subject: Re: Segregation: not just a Southern thing
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2003 11:16 am 

> I am told (by a former ticket and
> reservation agent) that at least a couple of
> western railroads would accept various
> racial customers, but would have their own
> suttle ways of seating them together (or
> apart).

The Illinois Central and probably other railroads that traveled from northern to southern states had a problem with passengers who crossed into states with Jim Crow laws. Since many IC trains crossed over the Ohio River at night, it was especially important to them that southbound passengers be segregated in Illinois rather than shuffling seats en route. At the IC's Chicago Central Station office, tickets for non-white customers were rubber-stamped with the word "Boulevard." This was an oblique reference to South Boulevard, which ran through the major African-American section of the city. Identification was made at the point of over-the-counter sale, by mail code or by telephone exchange. There seemed to have been few problems enforcing Jim Crow in the Land of Lincoln—perhaps segregation was just an accepted fact in a state with no statutes mandating separate facilities.

IRM has an interesting heavyweight Pullman used in Chicago-Memphis service. Rosters denote it as the “Panama-Colored Pullman.” Does the colored reference denote a chocolate and orange exterior paint scheme (originally used exclusively on the Panama Limited) or was it because the car was reserved for people of color. The car actually ran on the Louisian southbound, but it was switched out northbound, requiring several trains to get back to Chicago. It may have been used somewhat as a crew car. Why was it called the “Panama” car? The Panama Limited only carried white passengers--anyone else—even if they had tickets on the Panama, was bumped to the Louisian, which departed soon after. It seems that there was a particular problem with inter-line tickets and often people were bumped at the last minute. Thus, we know that the car did see a higher proportion of non-white passengers than the norm, but that’s not quite enough evidence to interpret this as a Jim Crow Pullman. Suggestions?

Does anyone have a set of Pullman bed linen died blue? Supposedly, only white people got white sheets. Porters and other minorities had to sleep on blue bedding.


fred_ash@bankone.com


  
 
 Post subject: Re: Interpreting Segregation (Jim Crow)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2003 12:06 pm 

I seem to recall the Combine that was hauled around with the General during her 1960s excursions was in reality a Jim Crow car.

I think it ended up in the Mid-West some place?

If it is still around it might be a great example of a good story to tell.

Ted Miles

ted_miles@nps.gov


  
 
 Post subject: Railroads as slave owners
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2003 12:45 pm 

As long as we have been talking about race and railroads, it's worth mentioning that many (I cannot to say all) Southern railroads owned or leased slaves at one time or another. Of the three men injured by the explosion of Best Friend of Charleston's boiler, two were slaves, leased by the railroad. One of them died of his injuries. The South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company listed over 100 slaves as a loss on their books during the year 1865, due to emancipation.

This is not meant to single out South Carolina - it just happens to be a case I am familiar with. Have any museums acknowleged and documented this era in Southern railroading?

tr2manz@frontiernet.net


  
 
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