LIMA — Eugene Jackson’s family has lived the story of black migration.
Jackson, 70, was born in Phenix City, Alabama, in 1945, but moved to Lima with his two siblings and his parents in 1955 when he was 10 years old.
The reason? A new car and an oppressive and racist police force.
“When my grandfather died, my father inherited a little money and bought a car. He’d shine it up and put gas in it on Friday when he got paid,” said Jackson. “The deputies would pull him over and put him in jail for some trumped up reason and drive the car around. And Monday morning, they’d let him out of jail with a car that had no gas.”
“They did that two times,” Jackson continued. “The next time, my dad sold the car, got him a bus ticket and came to Lima.”
Eugene’s father, Jimmy Jackson, heard of Lima through a brother. He got a job at the General Motors casting plant in Defiance. Eugene, who has a high school education, got a job in the auto industry, too, at Ford Motor Company in Lima as a supervisor in machining and assembly.
“If you didn’t have a job, you didn’t want one,” he said of the bountiful job opportunities of the 1950s and 1960s.
At the time of his retirement in 1998 at age 53, after 33 years of service, Eugene Jackson estimated he was making about $30 an hour.
But that kind of high-paying manufacturing job in Lima is harder to find nowadays, especially for people without a college education. Eugene’s 40-year-old son, Lydell, — who, like Eugene, has a high school education — is a maintenance worker at Shawnee Manor Nursing Home, making far less than his dad did at that age.
“My dad, he could leave one high paying job today and be in another high paying job the same day, because that was the boom of the economy,” Lydell Jackson said. “Now, the job market isn’t the same. It’s just not the same.”
Lydell Jackson doesn’t think race plays a role in who gets a good job and who doesn’t in Lima.
“My struggle is no different than any other,” he said.
Eugene Jackson echoed those sentiments.
“What goes on now is the haves and the have nots. It’s caste and class. They’re going to replace racism,” said the elder Jackson. “But poor white folks haven’t realized that yet.”