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Friday, October 22, 2010


In times past there was a line drawn in Eastern America called the Mason Dixon line. It was named after the surveyors who did the work. It became the source of many legal battles that the Crown finally settled in the 1700s.  Never the less it continued to be an irritant between the Penn family and the Calvert family.

There are many articles written about the Mason/Dixon line most of which have a few facts and then are self serving for whatever reason.

It is commonly thought that below this line was where segregation started and above this line men were treated the same. While it is true there were no slaves above the line, the differences between the races was strongly enforced and segregation was a fact.

As a young boy, I was traveling on a train from the north to the south and I didn’t know anything about a north - south line and I sure wasn’t curious about the radical wars that were going on.

Suddenly the train stopped at a town and all at once the train was being lurched forward and backward by some railway cars being added. The conductor came in and shouted something and all the black people rose and started to walk out the back and into the cars that had just been added on to the train.

All this made me extremely uncomfortable for I had no idea what was happening. I tried to be as quite as I could and waited and waited until finally the train began to move and once again to pick up speed.

After a couple of hours I got up enough nerve to ask the conductor what happened back there. He nonchalantly said that we crossed the Mason/Dixon line and that all the people of color (niggers) had to travel separated from the whites accordingly to the law. I looked back at the railroad cars and they were the same type of cars I was in, and I thought it was a case of equal but separate travel much as the schools were touted to be.

After that, I never thought too much about it, for I didn’t travel by bus or train very often. Some years later it was brought home about this distinction when my wife, children and I drove to Atlanta Georgia to visit an Aunt of mine.

We stopped at a gas station and my daughter ran to the water fountains, and discovered they were labeled white and colored so, precocious as she was she drank out of the one labeled colored.  My Aunt Jessie got very excited and called to her saying, “Don’t drink that water because it is colored.”  My innocent daughter replied, “No it isn’t colored, it is white.” Taking my daughter aside, I then explained a little about how some things were unusual in the South because of the difference in race.

Having lived out West of the Mason/Dixon, this experience was of some note because the only ones looked down upon out where we lived in Oakland, CA were the Portuguese.

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