WHO WAS THERE
WILLIAM E. COX
I look at the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1954 through a different lens from most Americans. My perspective may not even be shared by the majority of African Americans who have felt the beneficial impact of Brown over the past half century, because I am a black man who was born, raised, educated, and had my career roots in the Deep South during the era of “separate but equal, ” a phenomenon that can best be described as a hoax.
I experienced segregation firsthand. It was not something my elders shared with me—not something I read about in a novel or a history book. I lived segregation. Mention segregated lunch counters, water fountains, restrooms, and schools, and I can take you there. My memories of those experiences are as vivid and poignant as if they happened yesterday.
Life in Bay Minette, Alabama, in post–World War II America was very much like life in other parts of the Deep South. Even though the war between the North and the South had ended some eighty years before, the segregation of people by the color of their skin was still the prevailing custom of the times.
Signs that directed “colored” to another entrance to a restaurant (often a take-out window in the rear) or bathroom is a vivid memory to