My dad was born in 1924 deep in the south. Louisiana is as far south as one can get. Along with Alabama and Mississippi the only way anyone could go any farther south is to go for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico. Many consider this area the poorest part of the country. This has become evident as we look at what was destroyed during the recent storms.

My grandmother was born in Pointe Coupee Parish. I believe my grandfather was born in Wegmann, La. in Orleans Parish.

Pointe Coupee Parish is located just north of Baton Rouge.  My grandmother and my dad told me many times that she was not a slave and I have no reason not to believe them. In fact the 1860 Census showed that there were 12, 903 slaves and 721 “free colored”. Her family traveled from the Pointe Coupee and settled in Jefferson Parish (which is just south of New Orleans).

I don’t know when they made that trip but the trip itself must have been a difficult one. The 1870 Census stated that from 1860 to 1870 there was a migration of former slaves from Pointe Coupee to Orleans Parish.

Perhaps they didn’t leave then. Maybe they left after the flood of 1912. This flood had the whole area under water for six weeks.

It’s interesting to imagine how they made that trip. While on vacation in Louisiana in 1970 I remember that it took us an hour and a half to drive from West We Go in Jefferson Parish to Baton Rouge. I wonder how long it took them. Did they walk, ride in a horse drawn wagon or did they simply hitch a ride on the railroad?

However they came, I’m sure they hoped that life would be better in their new location. Although there was new hope they would never be able to escape the cruelty of racism. Their skin color was one thing they could not leave behind.

It is interesting to note that three years after my dad was born in 1924 there was another major flood of the Mississippi River. It was called The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. It affected ten states. They were Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

From what is written about this flood it was worse than the flood in 1912 and the damage was more severe than what Katrina left in its’ wake.

I remember where my grandparents lived on Gilligan Street and they would point to what looked to me as a mound of dirt but was actually a levy that separated them from the Mississippi River. It was so close that I could have easily walked to it.

I don’t know what happened to them during this time. Perhaps they didn’t have a lot of damage.  In any event they stayed right there.

It is also interesting to note that this flood was the cause of the great migration that sent many southern Blacks to the Northern Cities.

Growing up as a young Black American male deep in the south was very difficult. The many stories my dad would tell me would make the hair on my neck stand up.

He told me a story of how one of his friends was shot and killed by a local policeman because he looked like someone who committed some crime.

He told me another story when he and his friends were on a city bus going home and a local policeman made them get off and questioned them as to where they were going. The bus didn’t wait for them and when the policeman was finished with them, they had to walk home. They couldn’t walk along the main road. Their greatest fear was that another policeman or some other crazed person would stop them and no telling where that encounter would lead. They were forced to walk in the dark along the railroad tracks.

On many occasions my dad told me the main reason why he wanted to leave his home town was because he could not deal with the racial injustice. He felt that his anger would have caused him to kill someone or get killed.

He made his own migration to Washington DC in the mid 1940’s. That didn’t work out for him.  He returned home and stayed there for another year.

His next move was to New York City. This move may have made more sense since his older brother and other family members were already here.

He stayed in a rooming house in Manhattan and found work as a dishwasher at Horn and Hardart\’s.

Horn and Hardart operated what were called automats. These were very popular in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The automat offered prepared food that was kept behind a small glass window. Each window had a coin operated slot. After you put in the required amount of coins you would then open the glass window and remove the food. You could buy everything from sandwiches to pies and even a cup of coffee. They went out of business in the 1970’s after fast food restaurants became popular.

My dad met my mom at a dance hall in 1950, got married in 1951 and had me in 1952. I was not to be alone because I do share my parents with my sister and brother.

We lived on Putnam Avenue in Brooklyn (NY).  I was very young when we lived there. I only remember bits and pieces of that experience.

When we moved to 1414 Bergen Street in the Albany Houses, I was a lot older. It was there in Apartment 8C that I have my fondest memories. My family was one of many families that moved into this brand new housing project.

We stayed there for about 15 years after which we moved to Queens where we have been for the past 40 years.

We have always remained a close family even though we have moved to different parts of the country. With our cell phones and the use of e-mail we can stay in constant contact with each other.

This is my entry for Black History Month.

I’m the guy whose glass is always ½ full.






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