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A White Resident of Louisiana Remembers Jim Crow

Memories of Jim Crow and segregation in the South vary greatly depending on who's doing the remembering. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the recollections of Southern whites who lived during the segregation era often stand in stark contrast to those of African Americans. In this interview, Leonard Barrow, a white resident of New Iberia, Louisiana, remembers that few whites openly questioned segregation; as he recalls, "That's the way it was."

Barrow: God, there was a fellow who worked for my father for a number of years in the rice field and we ran into each other one day and boy he came and threw his arms around me you know it uh…now this is another funny thing, you wouldn't have dreamed of shaking hands back in those days. 

Ellis: The black man you ran into or your father? 

Barrow: My father or me would not have dreamed of shaking hands with a black person. 

Ellis: Some whites that I talked to say blacks were never treated poorly during Jim Crow, they were always treated well, they had their place and we had ours, but they were always treated well. I'm wondering how you see that? If you would agree? 

LB: Well, being treated well, I guess, has a pretty broad spectrum of uh…The blacks definitely lived at a much lower standard. Much lower. Many of the houses didn't have running water, many of the houses didn't have electricity, ah heat was rudimentary, of course nobody had air conditioning. 

Ellis: Do you remember any whites openly questioning the way things were? 

Barrow: Certainly not! Heavens no! Why? Why would they have questioned it? I mean, this is the way it was. You grew up, you know it's kinda like, I'm a Catholic because my parents were Catholics. Never questioned why. That's the way it was. 

Ellis: What about blacks? Do you remember blacks ever uh… 

Barrow: Raising the question? 

Ellis: Yes. 

Barrow: No. No, they knew their place.

Source | Leonard Barrow to Kate Ellis, "Never Shook Hands," oral history interview, from American Radioworks, Remembering Jim Crow, http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/remembering/whites.html.
Interviewer | Kate Ellis
Interviewee | Leonard Barrow
Rights | Transcripts from "Remembering Jim Crow," an American Radioworks ® documentary produced by Stephen Smith, Kate Ellis and Sasha Aslanian, © (p) 2001 American Public Media. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Item Type | Oral History
Cite This document | “A White Resident of Louisiana Remembers Jim Crow,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 19, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/984.

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