Monday, January 21, 2013

My Sister Evy and Civil Rights

My younger sister, Evy, who passed away at age 49 from cancer, was a wonderful sister to me.  I miss her so much, but I know that I will see her in Heaven some day.  One time a friend of ours from Alexandria, VA, Charlotte Watkins, wrote a memoir of Evy.  Charlotte and her family including her sister, Ellen, was our neighbor in Alexandria.  Here is what she wrote about Evy’s trip to visit her family after they had moved away.

Evy visited us in Greensboro, NC, where we moved after
Alexandria. I do not remember how she got to Greensboro, but she
went home by train all by herself. This impressed me. Alexandria and
Washington, D.C. did not have as much of the Segregation aspects of the South as did Greensboro. The year we moved there was the year (1960) or the year after some young black college men came into Greensboro’s Woolworth’s Five & Ten Cent Store and sat at the counter asking to be served. If you lived in the South, or for that
matter, Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston anywhere whites were afraid
blacks would take their jobs, etc., then you knew this Was Not Done.
Blacks sent a white friend in to buy food, or went to the back door.
Then they ate sitting on crates or garbage cans in the alley or
maybe went to the park. But they had to move if a white person
wanted the bench. I don’t think Evy had ever seen “WHITES ONLY”
signs over water fountains or on bathroom doors. I don’t recall if
she said anything but I remember she was quiet whenever she saw one.
Ellen & I had never, except my first year & her first 3 in
Henderson, NC, been to segregated schools, but we went back to visit
relatives in NC enough that the sight of these signs was “just the
way it was”. (Ellen & I both marched in Civil Rights campaigns when
we were older and I taught 12 years at a “ghetto” school 85% black.)
Anyway, Evy in her own quiet way, did something. Trains were also
Segregated back then in the South, with a car for whites up front
and a car for blacks at the back. The conductor helped Evy into
the “white” car, but as we stood there waving and saying good-bye,
we saw her pick up her bag and start walking to the back. As we
watched, and we moved back on the platform following her progress,
we saw her in the “Black” coach take a seat by the window. She was
smiling a big smile as she waved to us! I remember my Dad laughing
appreciatively at her “taking a stand or rather a seat for justice”
and wondering if they would make her move. Mom said she would pray
they would not. We were proud of Evy for her act of courage.
Cousin Janet and Evy when they were my bridesmaids in 1965.


  1. Bobbi, it came out fine. That is a nice story about Evy who I also remember fondly.

  2. Evy was always so quiet. Never got to know her. Sorry you lost her at such an early age. She took a MAJOR stand; hadn't even known they did this on trains. Are Jay & your folks still here? Let me know in next email. Probably won't return to this page. P.S., I mortified my Dad the other day by pointing out to the Perkins Restaurant Host/Mgr. that he was seating all the black folks in one part of the restaurant. Looked like discrimination until he sat a white family next to some of the black folks.

  3. That story brought a tear to my eye. Thanks Roberta for sharing. Those were powerful times of big change we were all a part of. Have you read or seen The Help? I just read it and it was shocking to remember the times when blacks were treated with so little respect as human beings. It reminded me of when I was home from college once and sat down at the kitchen table to have lunch with my mother's black maid. My mother roundly criticized me and told me not to do that again as 'it just isn't done.' I was shocked and saddened and vowed never to live like that. And now we have a black president. What a difference a half a century makes.