LIMA — Eugene Jackson, of Lima, discussed his life and chronicled the history of Blacks throughout the world in a virtual discussion Saturday at the Lima Public Library.
“I was born in a Jim Crow world down in Phenix City, Alabama, a little town across from Columbus, Georgia and Fort Benning. The little town was rated one of the wickedest little cities in the United States. They made a movie about what happened here. It’s called ‘The Phenix City Story,’” Jackson said.
His memories of growing up in the south are clear.
“One of the things I remember, we lived on a road that didn’t have electricity. The main road had electricity, but we didn’t,” Jackson said.
Once they did get electricity, the first electrical appliance they bought was a radio. After that, an electric iron. After that, what he called the “coup de gras” — a refrigerator. Eventually, they also bought a television.
He recalls getting new schoolbooks in 1953 and was initially excited about that.
“We used to get them from the other schools, you know the white schools — after they’ve been used and tore up,” Jackson recalled.
Much to his disappointment, one of the books was “Little Black Sambo.”
“A clown character with a big red tie hanging out, big old clown shoes on — just exaggerated features on the guy — and I started crying. I took it and threw it up against the wall. (The teacher) came over and gave me a whipping and wrote a note I took home to my mom, and she gave me a whipping I haven’t forgot yet,” Jackson said.
After several run-ins with the police there, he decided to move north to Lima.
“My brother was in the Army and he lived in Lima, and he told me about John Galvin, so I headed to Lima,” Jackson said. “I got here and John Galvin wasn’t hiring that day but they were at General Motors. I worked there about 40 years. I was making $26 a week (in Alabama) but here I was making $80 a week, working the night shift with a little bit of overtime.”
Shortly after moving to Lima, Jackson noticed differences on how Blacks were treated.
“These kids were so nice. I remember a bunch of them were talking about going to the movies. It only cost a dime. About seven or eight of us walked from 17th Street to the theater. I had to use the toilet when I got there.
“I asked the attendant, where was the toilet? He showed me, over there. I didn’t see no sign that said Colored, so I asked him where was the toilet I could use. He said what part of Mississippi did you come from? I said I’m not from Mississippi, I’m from Alabama.
“He said you better get around there and use that toilet and you better not mess up my floor, and everybody was laughing at me. (The attendant) said remember now, you are in Ohio now. You can use the restroom.”
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.