Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Social Consciousness: Segregation

BOND: Now to get from where you lived to the Butler Street Y, you had to pass through downtown Atlanta.

JORDAN: You had to catch the streetcar.

BOND: And I'm wondering if you noted a transition between where you lived downtown and then the Y on the other side of town. Was this evident to you that these were really two worlds? When did you find that out?

JORDAN: What I knew, when I had to go to the Butler Street Y is that I had to get on the streetcar and that I had to sit in the back. And I knew that if I, somewhere downtown, had to go the bathroom, I would have to go to the colored bathroom, or if I wanted water, I had to drink colored water. But I was also trained by my mother to go to the bathroom before I left home, to drink whatever water I wanted so that I'd not -- did not have to confront the insult of inferiority or a statement about inferiority. So you sort of prepared yourself. Going through downtown Atlanta was -- it was -- it was -- it was getting through it, and you didn't worry about it because you went from University Homes on the streetcar, through downtown, you transferred, changed streetcars, and then when you got on the other side, you were back in the community. And so you went from one that was all yours through this sort of segregated village, and then back to where you were. And there was, I think, probably some comfort in that. "I just gotta go through this downtown, but I don't have to deal with these people. I don't have to look at 'em. They're not gonna look at me." But I also remember this, Julian -- my mother telling me that "despite the fact that you're sitting in the back, you're as good as anybody on that bus." And I never had any doubt that the white children sitting in front, because they were sitting in front were somehow better than me.