By David K. Shipler
We were the only whites on the bus, my mother and I. And when a matronly woman came down the aisle taking names and addresses to be sure she had a complete roster, we gave her ours and received a surprised, joyous reaction.
We came from the next town over, Chatham, N.J., known as an all-white community whose real estate agents and homeowners were only just beginning to come under pressure to allow blacks to buy and rent property. There was no covenant, but anti-discrimination housing laws had not yet been passed, and excluding minorities was a legal practice in towns and neighborhoods across the land. My middle-class commuter town had a reputation as a white spot alongside its racially diverse neighbor, Madison, where we had boarded the bus for the March on Washington.
So when we said, “Chatham,” the astonished attendance-taker beamed and chirped, “Well, welcome, Chatham!” Other passengers turned and gave us the biggest smiles I’ve ever gotten on a bus to anywhere.