THE freight train leaving out of Chattanooga, going around the mountain curves and hills of Tennessee into Alabama, it went so slow anyone could get off and back on.
That gave the white boys the idea they could jump off the train and pick up rocks, carry them back on, and chunk them at us Negro boys.
The trouble began when three or four white boys crossed over the oil tanker that four of us colored fellows from Chattanooga were in. One of the white boys, he stepped on my hand and liked to have knocked me off the train. I didn't say anything then, but the same guy, he brushed by me again and liked to have pushed me off the car. I caught hold of the side of the tanker to keep from falling off.
I made a complaint about it and the white boy talked back-- mean, serious, white folks Southern talk.
That is how the Scottsboro case began . . . with a white foot on my black hand.
"The next time you want by," I said, "just tell me you want by and I let you by."
"Nigger, I don't ask you when I want by. What you doing on this train anyway?"
"Look, I just tell you the next time you want by you just tell me you want by and I let you by."
"Nigger bastard, this a white man's train. You better get off. All you black bastards better get off!"
I felt we had as much business stealing a ride on this train as those white boys hoboing from one place to another looking for