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A Little Known Event in History

As a teenager, I unknowingly participated in moment of Black history.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, I am reminded of a bit of personal history that was, in fact, a little known piece of American History.

It was 1958 when Patti Adams and I arrived on the campus of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Two Negro girls from New York, scoping out the college where Patti anticipated completing her high school senior year in the advanced placement program.

On Saturday afternoon, the day before Easter, we went downtown on a shopping spree. It was time to eat lunch, and knowing that we were in the South, we knew better than to enter a local restaurant.  So we chose the safest place we could think of, a national chain, Woolworth’s, and sat down at the counter.

As the waitress appeared not to notice us, Patti, a diminutive young lady, addressed her politely.  “We’ll have two hamburgers and two Cokes please.”  Tending to her job, the waitress walked back and forth, back and forth, but failed to write down our order.

Well bred, and with a pleasant demeanor, Patti leaned forward and repeated her request.  “We’ll have two hamburgers and two Cokes please.” As I sat back, the more timid of the two, my eyes darted first to the left, then to the right, then to the left … as the waitress walked back and forth before us, seemingly oblivious to our request.

Well, at this point, the “New York Bitch” was unleashed as Patti leaned forward, rapped her left hand on the counter, and demanded, “I said we’ll have two hamburgers and two Cokes please.”  In the silence that followed, amidst the sideward glances of the other customers, the waitress sauntered over, producing the long awaited two hamburgers and two Cokes. Unconcerned, we ate our lunch and returned to the campus.

Much to our surprise, when we reached our room, we found two plates of food sitting on the desk.  “We snuck this out of the cafeteria for you,” a smiling coed told us.  “After all, you were downtown, and there’s no place that we can eat in Nashville.”  “What do you mean?” we replied.  “We had lunch at Woolworth’s”

The blood drained from the coed’s face, and if it were genetically possibly, she would have turned white.  “Are you crazy?  Negroes can’t eat at the Woolworth counter.”

In 1961, three years later, brave college students from SNCC integrated the Nashville Woolworth counter……for the Second Time.

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Dedicated to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

*******

Amy Bryant is the author of You CAN Go Home Again
Check out my e-book on Amazon

Visit my Facebook author page here

Visit Patricia "Patti" Adams' website here.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Amy Bryant January 21, 2013 at 09:17 PM
I'm pleased that you enjoyed it.
Tricia Farley January 22, 2013 at 02:36 AM
As we share moments in our lives- (past, present or dreams for the future)- we build community. That is what makes the world a better place. We are better together. MLK had a dream that was big enough to carry into 2013. I cannot express how much your willingness to share such an amazing day meant to me. Thank you.
Amy Bryant January 22, 2013 at 02:13 PM
Thank you for your heartwarming expression. Through such dialogue we build community.
michael mirra January 25, 2013 at 12:15 PM
You were braver than you knew at the time. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that. In 1958, in the South, you may have would up dead. These Southern people were crazy & all you needed was one Klan member in the place. The Law enforcement would have turned a blind eye & deaf ear. On top of everything else, being from New York really put the icing on the cake. Sometimes being unaware of the danger is a wonderful thing. I remember pictures of Jack Botted Southern police clubbing innocent people that had the courage to sit at Southern Lunch Counters. That was when the camaras were on them. You could have ended up like Goodman, Schwarner, & Channey did in Mississippi. It is something you always will remember with pride. The naivity of youth is a wonderful, but sometimes dangerous thing.
michael mirra January 25, 2013 at 12:26 PM
Sometimes people are torn between their personal feelings & what their employer demands in order to keep her job. The waitress may have felt that she should serve these women & in spite of all social pressure, she did. In the social climate of the time, she could have just told them to leave & called the local police that would have made the woman leave for trespassing, or some crap. The waitress may have been torn inside between what she knew was right, & what she knew was accepted. It may have been a pioneering experience for the waitress too. There were other Southerners in the place & she may have lost her job over it & may have faced severe social friction in the town. No one knows what internal struggle the waitress went through & why she defied the mores of her culture. She too may have been an unsung pioneer. Then again maybe not. LOL

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