Front Porch: Civil Rights

Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King, 1964, photographed by Herman Hiller, courtesy of the New York World Telegram & Sun Collection at the Library of Congress.

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Front Porch: Civil Rights

by Harry L. Watson
Southern Cultures, Vol. 14, No. 3: Civil Rights

"Why do they call it 'White Park?'" I demanded. "Why?"

The Civil Rights Movement first touched my life about fifty years ago, though I scarcely knew it at the time. We were visiting my father’s sisters at the old home place in South Carolina, and were heading home from a lakeside picnic. I was old enough to read and ask questions, but too young to follow current events.

As we slowly wheeled out of the parking lot, station wagon crowded with parents, kids, and aunts, I scrutinized the retreating entrance sign from my perch on the back seat. Its big bold letters read “Greenwood County White Park.”

The park didn’t look white to me. Except for the ducks, all I saw were the usual green trees, brown water, and red dirt. This had to be explained.

“Why do they call it ‘White Park?’” I demanded. “Why?

Flush with modern theories of childrearing, my parents normally indulged my curiosity, but not this time. Dense silence suddenly enveloped the front seat.

Maybe they hadn’t heard me. “Was it named for Mr. White?” I offered helpfully. “Is that why they call it ‘White Park’?”