I had been brought up to believe in equality for all races. Although Bob was a conservative, my Mother was very liberal and taught us to accept everyone equally. In our travels we had to meet and mingle with people of all different races and religions. It had never been a problem for me, I accepted everyone as an equal.
My contact with African Americans had been limited, I had gone to an integrated school in Pasadena when I was very young. And I had met a few persons of color in our travels. I expected to see people of color treated as I would treat them: equally.
So, I was shocked when I arrived in Tennessee in late March 1959, and found segregation and generally very poor conditions for African Americans.
One of the first things I saw when we crossed the border from Arkansas to enter Tennessee was an older man pulling a cart, like he was a mule. I found that to be shocking. Another shocking thing I saw was the women and children out in the cotton fields. I would later learn they earned approximately one dollar a day, and would spend an entire day bending to pick a small cotton ball, shoving it into a sack and continuing the process all day long.
Then there were the separate bathrooms. The "white" bathrooms, which were usually very clean and attractive, and the "colored" bathrooms, which were usually stark and dirty. Drinking fountains were the same, the "colored" fountains usually looked as if they had been installed after being found in a dump, while the "white" fountains always appeared sparkling clean.
I would later become aware of the inability of the African American to be able to go into a diner where "white" folk ate, that African American's had to sit in the back of the bus (which was never cleaned as was the front of the bus) and the differences in the housing situation.
Overall, segregation was very shocking to me. The longer I stayed in Tennessee, the more shocked I would become.