Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Walking-In-The-Street Mystery Solved?

Jim Schlosser wrote an excellent story about retired African-American photographer Ben Poole and his experiences working in Greensboro during the Jim Crow era.

Poole has now donated thousands of his photos to the Greensboro Historical Museum, including a photographic record of Greensboro's east side "slums" before they were torn down during urban renewal in the early 1960s. That, to me, sounds like a treasure trove: I live adjacent to some of the neighborhoods that were destroyed, and will be fascinated to see what they looked like.

One such photo printed in this morning's N&R (but unfortunately not posted on their website) shows an old east Greensboro street scene that may solve what has been a longstanding mystery for me, namely, why so many African Americans walk in the street, even in neighborhoods (like mine) that have sidewalks.

The photo showed that in those neighborhoods, houses and shotgun shacks were built right up to the street. There were no sidewalks. The people in the photo were walking in the street because they had to.

I wonder whether that habit, acquired during Jim Crow, has been passed on to the present generation.

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