White people sitting in the back of the bus

I’m looking for stories, or at least mentions, of white people (as an act of protest or civil disobedience) using facilities reserved for blacks during the segregation era.


I have this sneaking feeling that I may have posted this question before, but I think this feeling is illusory. If I’m wrong, my apologies.

I vaguely remember something about the Freedom Riders doing things like that when they came here in the 1960’s. Have you tried searching for info on them?

My dad distinctly remembers a trip to the South sometime in the late '50’s, with his father insisting that he drink from the “colored” water fountains. My grandfather was no professional civil right activist - although he supported the movement - just an angry Jewish guy from Brooklyn, who had encountered too much racism during the War (all too often from Southerners) to be able to let this kind of thing slide.

Barely relevent: In Angel Heart, Mickey O’Rourke deliberately sits right behind a sign saying “COLOREDS ONLY”. (The film is set in the 50s.)

What would have been the reaction to such behavior among mainstream whites? Was the attitude, “you’re white, so you can drink (or sit) wherever you want. It’s the Negros that must be subservient.” Or (as I assume), would such behavior be reacted to defiantly, since these people were messing up the rigid social stratification of the society?

I don’t really know, but suspect more of the latter. Remember that the rationalization was “separate but equal”, not “Negroes are subservient”. Messing around with social strictures (probably supposed to have been “agreed upon” between the races) would highlight the SBE rationalization as just that, an ugly rationalization for subjugating other human beings. IME, few things get people more irate than forcing them to think about things they’d really rather not think about.

I believe it was against the law in some places. I think you could be arrested if you were the wrong color in the wrong place. I could be mistaken.

From here.

Well, not as an act of protest, but as an act of selfishness, there is a rather famous example.

I trust that also answers AtomickTom’s question

My mother was born and raised in Brooklyn. When my father was drafted in WW II, he got sent to Camp Stewart in Georgia. When he was done my mother went down there, (without telling him.) She told me that she often used the “colored” water fountain - not to make a point, but she didn’t see why anyone could care. She did get glares from the locals. Never more than that, perhaps they thought Jews from NY were weird and not expected to participate in local culture. Anyhow her maiden name was Sherman, so maybe they were afraid of her. :slight_smile:

this was in late 1943 or early 1944.