REAL STORIES
BY REAL PEOPLE Search
Monday, October 23, 2017

The Sundown Laws of the 1930's

Credit: Patrick Daniel Adams
Flamingo garden in the Rossmoyne district

A young girl's first experience with racism

It’s Glendale, California, early 1930's. Black people know they have to be outside the city limits before dark.

Mama, a civil rights activist before the title had hardly been invented, tells me about the injustice of the so-called “sundown laws.”

Mama tells me about the hardships the sundown laws cause for hardworking people, like the Black maids who work in the big houses in the Rossmoyne district up near the country club. “If they’re not out of town before sundown, they’re harassed by the police, and sometimes they’re picked up and dropped at the city limits. Some of them even lose their jobs!”

Mama knows first hand how much a job means to poor people.

One night about dusk, Mama and I are on the bus, headed home to south Glendale after a visit to our old neighborhood in Montrose. The bus driver is driving as though he is in a hurry. When we get to the Rossmoyne district, the bus driver speeds up even more, passing the first bus stop. A Black maid is left standing on the curb.

“Did you see that?” Mama says. “He drove right past that lady! And it’s almost dark!” Mama rises up in her seat and looks ahead to the next bus stop. “Let’s see if he’s going to stop for them.”

Two elderly Black maids are standing on the curb, waiting for the bus. The bus driver isn't slowing down. At the last possible moment, Mama reaches up and pulls the stop request cord.

“Well, I’ll be damned!” the driver says under his breathe, but loud enough for everyone to hear. He jams on the brakes and swerves the bus to the curb. Mama gathers up our belongings, takes my hand, and leads me to the back door of the bus. When the door opens, we don’t get off.

As soon as Mama sees the Black women are on the bus, Mama calls out to the driver in an apologetic tone, “Ohhh, my mistake, I thought this was our stop.” We go back to our seats.

The bus driver shrugs and drives on, but when Mama makes the same “mistake” several more times, forcing the driver to stop, he loses his temper. “Lady, make up you mind! You and that kid either get off my bus or stay in your seats!” Mama smiles. We’re out of the Rossmoyne district.

Eighty years later, I remember how proud and scared I was. I was proud of Mama for helping the ladies, but I was also scared of what that bus driver might do. I was even scared of the other passengers, even the ones we knew. When Mama and I walked down the aisle past them to the back door, but didn't get off the bus, they frowned and looked like they were mad at us. Mama told me, “They aren’t really mad at us, Patty, they just want us to stop making the bus driver mad. They don't want trouble.”

Mama was never willing to shut her eyes to injustice just to avoid trouble.

Thirty years later, when Rosa Parks made another bus driver mad, triggering the Civil Rights Movement, I'm sure Mama was cheering from her seat in heaven.



About the Writer

Patricia Adams is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
Want to write articles too? Sign up & become a writer!

13 comments on The Sundown Laws of the 1930's

Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By Barbara MacDonald on April 10, 2012 at 02:00 pm

Amazing inspiring story Patrica...I would of so loved your Mother and if I had been there would of done exactly what she did...total "class"... she was a positive example for you as her child to see that this is how we need to "walk" in this world..."if we do not stand for what we believe in, what will we "fall" for...again a beautiful write...thank you for making my day better.

 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By Patricia Adams on April 11, 2012 at 05:31 pm

Thank you for your comments, Barbara. It means a great deal to me to know that you are reading about my mother and appreciating what she did in those difficult and dangerous times. Thank you so much for making my day!

 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By Barbara MacDonald on April 11, 2012 at 08:09 pm

Your welcome Patrica, it did my heart good to read this, very inspiring,,,please write more, looking forward to reading them...

 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By Barbara MacDonald on April 16, 2012 at 01:46 pm

Stopping by to wish you a beautiful week Patrica and check if you have written any more...take care...:-)

 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By Patricia Adams on April 23, 2012 at 05:29 pm

Thank you, Barbara. I love your poetry!

 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By Barbara MacDonald on April 24, 2012 at 09:57 am

((smiling)) Thank you Patrica, hope all is well with you...

 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By Barbara MacDonald on August 19, 2012 at 08:05 pm

Patrica, leaving this here as I am not sure if the messages are working here right now...I had messaged you earlier in the week...I was hoping that your shoulder was healing and that you are doing better...take care, leaving healing thoughts and energy with you.

 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 0
By Barbara MacDonald on November 09, 2012 at 05:43 pm

In my thoughts Patrica, hope your arms is healed now...have a blessed weekend...hugs.

 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 0
By Barbara MacDonald on November 09, 2012 at 06:51 pm

* arm...

 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By Patricia Adams on April 09, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I'm sorry, but I have no clue how you'd find out, JD. Thanks for reading my story about my mother. She's still a great role model for all of us.

 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By Barbara MacDonald on July 19, 2013 at 11:12 am

:) in my thoughts Patrica...have a blessed weekend.

 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By Coach Phatty on July 19, 2013 at 07:11 pm

GREAT ARTICLE!!!! I love stories like this that re-assures me the good side of humanity. If more people in this wordwere like this...imagine how much better the world may be!! We all need to remember...it doesn't matter what the color of our skin is...we are all still red and pink in the middle!

 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 2
By Patricia Adams on August 06, 2013 at 05:27 pm

Thank you for your nice comment, Coach! Mama would certainly agree with you about the color of our skin--and of our "middle." My best to you.

 Report abuse



Add A Comment!

Click here to signup or login.


Rate This Article


Your vote matters to us



x


x