H. J. Williams, who was born in 1910 and lived mostly in Alabama, was interviewed in the 1990s about living in the segregated South. In this excerpt of the interview, Williams describes when he first realized that blacks and whites were treated differently.
MAUSIKI SCALES (INTERVIEWER): When did you first realize that the way blacks and whites were treated was different?
H. J. WILLIAMS: When I first realized that? Well, I been knowing that . . . all my days. I realize that all my days when I was a small boy coming up I’d say around 10 or 12 years, you know, I knowed the difference, you know, in the treatments of human beings. I knowed the treatment at that time, but we wadn’t allowed to say anything. That’s right. We wadn’t allowed to say anything. I remember back there in those days and new to that time if you was driving a horse to a buggy, okay, and white ladies was in a buggy, you couldn’t pull around them and go in the front of them. Because my sisters did it and the man’s place what we was living on was Tom Preseton and his daughter was coming back from Yazoo City, coming back out in the country where we lived. And my sisters was in a buggy and they pulled around. They went home and told their daddy that the Williams girls pulled by them and dusted them up. And they daddy got on his horse and come over there and told my daddy that Miss Letty and Miss Eva said your girls pulled around them and dusted them up. Don’t let that happen no more. That’s right. That’s just the way it was in those days. Absolutely. That is around about ’30, ’32, 1932. That’s right. So that’s the way things was at that time. I realize that, you know, it is nothing but Jim Crow, you know. But years, man, when I was a small boy, but we couldn’t say nothing because if you did the first things they’d holler about was a lynching or whipping up a black person. And then just like you see today about the Ku Klux Klan person, it was the same thing at that time. The same identical thing at that time.