Monday, June 16, 2008

Remembering Segregation

Durham, NC, 1968

June marks the 40th anniversary of Bobby Kennedy's assassination, and one of the issues he is remembered for is his very tough stance on enforcing desegregation. The coverage of this tragedy brought up disturbing memories for me: I grew up in the segregated south, took trains through the deep south where the stations still had "whites only" restaurants and "colored only" water fountains; my first job teaching was at a 100 percent black junior high school on a dirt street in Raleigh, North Carolina - I taught earth science in a lab where the Bunsen burners were not attached to a gas supply.

A few months before his death I got my first journalistic break when I photographed a student protest against Governor Wallace who had come to Durham to spread his racist and hateful views. I nearly got my head bashed in by the cops, and I was scared to the point that focusing my camera was problematic. But I did get one picture, of Wallace supporters who weren't interested in a verbal debate with college students but just wanted to bust a few heads, that captured the sense of hatred and that the Duke University student newspaper used the following day. It's printed above, in a deliberately contrasty mode that I think brings back the gritty feeling of the era.

A Wallace supporter makes his point the best way he knows.

Fear and Loathing in Durham - "Wallace Has It! [white skin] Do You?"

Supporting her man

A Duke student thinks it over


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