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A Historical Fiction Of A Black Girl's Experience With Segregation
Ida was helping her pa pitch hay for the horses when a note, dated 1949 requested that the Evans family move from Las Vegas to Missouri. “Do we have to, Papa? What if the kids don’t like me because I’m black?”
Papa scratched his mustache. “Ida, you just have to wait. God knows best.” Ida’s heart sank. She had been verbally assaulted by other kids just because she was black. Papa ruffled Ida’s short, thick black hair. “Come. Your mama’s got supper.”
At the supper table over a huge plateful of chicken and dumplings, cornbread and biscuits, Papa told them their plans. Mama looked really nervous. “But Walter, don’t we have the plane tickets?” Papa smiled. “Oh, Emily,we’re not flying
. We’re hitching old Nora, the mare to our buggy.” “I see what you’re saying.” Said Mama. Papa took a swig of his coffee and looked at Ida’s four brothers and sisters, Travis, Nora, Lizzie and Peter who were sitting in between Mama and Ida.
“I am excited about moving, Papa!” Said Travis, “But since we’re an all black family, I am sort of worried about us being discriminated against because we’re colored.” Papa sighed. “Well, son, there’s been a lot of discrimination lately. We’ll just have to deal with it.”
Indeed, there was lots of discrimination. Blacks couldn’t go to the same school or drink out of the same water fountain. Poor Ida thought how horribly she’d been treated when Lucy Stebins yelled, “Who’s that ugly colored girl?” This made Ida really hurt and discriminated against. Ida’s American dream was to be in a world where no discrimination was occurring. This was her absolute goal.
Papa cleaned the last portions of chicken and dumplings from his plate. “Well, best get some rest for tomorrow.”
That night when Ida was in bed, she thought of what the world would be like if there was no discrimination. All the children called her “the black girl” as if she were nothing. She felt terrible, and none of her school teachers did anything about it. Maybe it was because her teacher was a white woman. Ida was in the third grade and was a straight a student. Her parents were literal about earning things.
“It pays off if you get good grades.” Her mom always said. Ida tried her best to get Miss Porter, her teacher’s attention, but it did no good. Once her teacher cheated her on a math test. She got a d even though she studied so hard. She went home, crying to her parents and as a result her mom talked to Miss Porter about it, but Miss porter wasn’t to be assured.
“That black girl’s a cheat.” She said. “I just knew she copied answers from another student.” Poor Ida. Gosh. All the whites in the school got praised, but why not her? It was just the way it was. She was a colored girl. A nothing. That was Ida Evans. Thinking these thoughts made Ida begrudge the whites. As she drifted into sleep, she thought of her American dream, of no discrimination. Her family would move in a couple of days to a place where there would always be equality.
The next morning was the first day of the Summer holidays and Ida heard her papa rise early in the morning to milk the cows and perform an abundance of farm chores. She dressed quikly in her good brown cotton dress with flowers decorated on the long full skirt. Mama was at the hearth, sturring grits in an iron skillet. “Morning, Ida.” She smiled. “Morning, Mama,” said Ida. Ida saw that most everything was packed for the long trip to Missouri. Ida sighed. She’d packed all her things in advance about a week ago. The family was going to set off late that morning. Mama had packed a whole lot of food in a basket. She’d also packed some blankets in case everybody was sleepy. Papa had packed a few possessions of his own.
The reason why the Evans family had to move was because Papa had been layed off at Thomson’s candy factory because of the bad economy and because he wasn’t getting payed much. The whites got the most money. Papa wanted to move anyway, because the world was so prejudice these days. The whole family wanted equality.
Ida ate her grits and biscuits. She thought it really important to get her strength because they had a long drive ahead of them. Later
that morning, Nora was hitched to the huge buggy and all personal belongings and family supplies were piled in, as well as the family. Mostly, Ida slept, wrapped in one of Mama’s blankets. Travis kept saying, “Are we there yet?” Ida got really irritated. Mama got out her knitting and was busily making a quilt.
After what seemed like forever they decided to stop for a rest. It was already dusk. They hitched up the large canvas tent Papa packed. It was big enough to hold the whole family. Ida felt really tired. It had been a long journey.
“When will we be there, Papa?” Lizzie wanted to know. “As soon as we can, honey.” Said Papa. The night wore on. Mama got out a few tins of beans for supper and cooked them over a fire. The family sat, quietly eating their supper. Mama stretched out in front of the fire.
Papa said, “You know, as soon as we’re all moved I’d better get a new job.” Mama looked relieved. “I hope so, Walter. We’ve not had any money to buy enough food lately.” Papa yauned and scratched his beard. “Yes,” he said. “That has been a problem.”
That night, Ida thought of her special American dream. They were getting closer to having it come true. It’d be the first time they’d face equality.
The next morning saw the family up and riding again. This journey had been taking forever. The family did what they could as far as camping out in forested areas. After what seemed like days they found themselves in Missouri. It was a beautiful place. Papa found a huge log cabin in which they’d live. Ida was so tired after the long journey that she was absolutely glad to finally come to a real and perfectly safe home.
One day, Ida went exploring. All the children were hanging out by the huge apple trees by the lake. It was early July. A yung girl, decidedly white because of her skin color, came up to Ida. She wore a long blue summer dress with a long line of buttons. The skirt was decorated with flowers.
“Hello,” said Ida. “What’s your name?” The girl smiled sweetly wich surprised Ida. That girl was one of the white folks and back where Ida lived no white kid ever smiled at her. Now Ida looked surprised and delighted.
“My name’s Olivia Coats, but I’m called Livvy for short.” “Nice to meet you.” Said Ida. Ida felt a pang of delight at meeting somebody new. This was the place her family had dreamed of, where everybody was equal.
The girls spent time, getting to know each other. Livvy told how her mama was a cook at the Red-hot Diner, making enchiladas and tacos for people. Ida told about how her father got laid off from his job at the candy factory. The girls sat by the lake, gazing into the water. Ida sighed. Now she thought of how great it was, coming to a new place, a new home where people didn’t discriminate. Everybody was equal.
Later Ida helped her mom gather apples. The summer apples were delicious this year and were perfect for making preserves or apple pie. Mama’s preserves were delicious, not to mention the cherry preserve. “Livvy Coats lives just by the lake, not too far from where we live. I met her today.” Ida told Mama. Her mama smiled. “That’s nice, honey.” She said. Ida beamed. “Yes. And her mom happens to work at a Mexican diner.” Mama thoughtfully plucked an apple from the tree, then added it to her huge pan of apples. “I heard about that.” Papa was out, tending to the farm animals. With a huge pan of apples, Ida ran back up to the house. Her mama followed.
Papa got a new job at Calvin’s Lumber yard. He was to hall out lumber every other day, starting from eight a.m. to six p.m. He was willing to do it, but he was worried about his back hurting. “Well, Walter honey, that is the point of working real hard.” Poor Papa had to give in or else he wouldn’t be able to support his family. He was paid weekly. He’d get paid at the end of every week at least $500. That’d be enough to buy plenty of meat, cheese, and other kinds of food for the family to eat. The rest of the summer was spent picking fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden, swimming, picnics, and other activities. When school started up again, Ida knew she would make lots of new friends. She set off to school, lunchbox in hand, confident that all the kids would treat her like an equal. Her teacher, Mrs. Randolph accepted Ida with welcome arms.