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Red Velvet Road

(by Janella Kennedy)

My mother was always warned not to go into other people’s homes unless it was someone very close to her family, and to hang around only with other Blacks. This was Waynesboro, Mississippi, in the 1940s and ‘50s—a dark time of segregation in America. She only attended school with other Black children (referred to as “colored”) all the way through high school. She saw signs around town, on water coolers or the waiting room at the train station, saying “Whites Only,” and she remembers going to the back of a restaurant to place an order for pickup, since Blacks were not allowed to eat there. Black people only went to the home of a white family for labor such as cleaning or cooking, or working on a farm. The way that my mother and many Black people sought to escape the extreme racism of the South was to relocate.