MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) – On Monday, the Community Coalition for Social Justice put on its annual event in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day with this year’s theme of “Telling West Virginia’s Stories and Dreams.”
During the hour-and-a-half event, some Black West Virginians shared stories of when they realized what segregation was when growing up in Monongalia County.
“We (whites and Blacks) played together after school and then I wondered why we couldn’t go to school together, then my mom explained it to me ‘this was the ruling’ because we just couldn’t,” one woman remembered. “It was heartbreaking when we found out that their mothers, when they got older, the moms would separate their kids from playing with us.”
The three Black people giving their perspectives on growing up in a segregated time said they didn’t see a lot of racism and discrimination when growing up.
“Everybody had the dame nickel and the same dime; nobody could act like you’re better than anyone else,” one man said about how all the kids played together when they were very young, no matter their skin color. “But we all got along so well together it could’ve been an example of how people should live.”
“Racism is always there, it’s always existed. Maybe when we were little, we didn’t recognize it like you did when you got older,” another man in the panel discussion said.
One thing they all agreed on was how they saw a difference in the school systems for white and Black people in Morgantown in their time.
“You didn’t have the equipment that white schools had. Many times, you would see a book that you knew had been used in a white school,” one woman said.
“We would get second-class books,” another woman added. “Books had been used for some time; it had pages torn out and we would say ‘well, what happened here. It’s torn pages out in the middle of a story.’”
“After you begin to pay attention to those things, it bothers you,” the woman said.
This was the 17th annual MLK Day event the Community Coalition for Social Justice has put on.