Well, I'm a daughter of the great migration as, really, the majority of African Americans that you meet in the north and west are products of the great migration. It's that massive. Many of us owe our very existence to the fact that people migrated.
There were colored and white waiting rooms everywhere, from doctor's offices to the bus stations, as people may already know. But there were actually colored windows at the post office in, for example, Pensacola, Florida. And there were white and colored telephone booths in Oklahoma. And there were separate windows where white people and black people would go to get their license plates in Indianola, Mississippi. And there were even separate tellers to make your deposits at the First National Bank in Atlanta.
My parents sent me to a school across town, an integrated school, where I had the chance to meet and grow up with people who were from other parts of the world. ... I remember feeling that I would never have anything to contribute on St. Patrick's Day. I couldn't tell the stories that they might have been telling about their forebears and I felt left out.
Anything that could be conceived of that would separate black people from white people was devised and codified by someone in some state in the South. There were colored and White waiting rooms everywhere, from doctor's offices to the bus stations, as people may already know.
That's one of the biggest losses, I think, to African American families, is that people, once they left, they turned away from the South. They didn't look back, and they often didn't tell their children about it. They didn't want to talk about it. It was too painful, what they'd gone through and the caste system of the South, which was Jim Crow.
And in some ways, to me, that's one of the inspiring and powerful things about the Great Migration itself. There was no leader, there was no one person who set the date who said, 'On this date, people will leave the South.' They left on their own accord for as many reasons as there are people who left. They made a choice that they were not going to live under the system into which they were born anymore and in some ways, it was the first step that the nation's servant class ever took without asking.