Sorry, dear blog readers, but on this Independence Day, I got so depressed reading the mindless blathering on the “Freedom of Americans” on the editorial pages of the Richmond Times-Dispatch this morning that I just had to quote from the excellent book, “The Warmth of Other Suns, The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” (Vintage) by Isabel Wilkerson:
“Between Alabama and Detroit, the dividing line was the Ohio River, as it had been during slavery, where, once across it, blacks were free if they could only manage to get there. Between Mississippi and Chicago, Jim Crow went out of effect in Cairo, Illinois, at the southern tip of the state. For a time in the 1920s, the ride to Chicago was interrupted after the train cross the Ohio River into Cairo, as if the train were passing from Poland into the old Soviet Union during the Cold War. Once over the river and officially in the North, the colored cars had to be removed in a noisy and cumbersome uncoupling and the integrated cars attached in their place to adhere to the laws of Illinois. Colored passengers had to move, wait, reshuffle themselves, and haul their bags to the newly attached integrated cars. Going south, the ritual was reversed. The railroad men had to reattach the colored-only cars and remove the integrated cars in a clamorous ordeal to meet the laws of Kentucky. Colored passengers had to gather up their things and take their second-class seats, reminded, in that instance, that they were reentering the South. Such as the protocol of a border crossing.”
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