I just read The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It takes place in the early 60’s. The 50’s were my growing up years so I was able to identify with much that was written here. No, we didn’t have ‘colored’ help but I attended schools in Covington, Oklahoma and Des Moines, Iowa where there were definite ideas and rules concerning black folks.
We lived in Oklahoma from ’46 to ’48 in a small town where negro people were not allowed to stay over night! They could pass through town but that was all. I remember seeing a black man walking down the railroad tracks one day and my thoughts, as a little girl, were, I hope he knows he can’t stay overnight. He’s just got to keep going. I had no idea what the consequences would be but I knew where the jail was and was quite sure he’d have to spend the night there if he was still there by evening.
The jail was a little separate building next to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff was my best friend’s daddy! He also worked in the oil fields and they lived on a small farm. People were hard-working folks back in the 40’s and 50’s.
In Des Moines, Iowa, I attended Nash Elementary and Kirkwood Elementary Schools in the middle 40’s. I don’t remember very much about the elementary schools. I attended Washington Irving Jr. High and North High Schools in the middle 50’s. The junior and senior high schools were probably half black students. I had a few good black friends.
I have several memories that I will never forget. I’ll write about one. I was walking home from school one day and a classmate was also walking the same direction. He happened to be black but he was a good friendly kid and we were friends. We were walking along a busy street, talking and laughing, having a good time. A car, going by, suddenly veered over. The driver was a white man who noticed a white girl and a black boy walking together. The look on his face was one of shock and anger. He nearly drove up onto the sidewalk. I knew what his problem was: I was walking with a black boy.
So what! He was a good boy and a good friend. I was a good girl and a good friend. We never walked together again.
I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for folks of color. I knew there were problems with folks accepting them. I’m proud of my dad because he was Director of Interracial Evangelism for our church denomination, Free Methodist, in the late 50’s.
I read The Help with riveting attention because of my association with black folks over the years and growing up in the 40’s and 50’s. I felt the discrimination and I wish I had been a better friend. There are more experiences I haven’t written about here because there isn’t room. I’ll just say here that every association I’ve had has been a positive one and I’m glad to have been a friend.
I know everyone who reads The Help won’t have the same reaction I’ve had because they haven’t had the same experiences I’ve had but I do hope it wakes some folks up as to how black folks were and sometimes still are discriminated against.
God loves them and so do I.