Randolph County is geographically very large and African Americanfamilies lived in every section of the county. Their homes ranged from the farreaches of Omaha to Broughton Ridge, to BaconLevel, to Wehadkee, to Bartlett Crossroads, to Wedowee, to Woodland, Rock Mills, to Wadley and otherunnamed communities. In the early days,the parents of Black students used creative means to get their children toschool; busing was the answer. Since the County did not furnish buses forAfrican American students the parents of African children had to devise creative ways to get their children to school. Many visionary African American men purchased used buses or made buses from trucks to transport thechildren. M. C. Pate, who lived in theWehadkee community, owned and operated the second bus and provided transportation from his community to RCTS. Several other men also provided similar transportation for the children. Eventually,the Randolph County Board of Education relented and started providing bustransportation for African American students. The buses that the Board provided were old and worn and had been used for years to transport White children to segregated schools. Breakdowns were frequent and many students spent many hours waiting to be picked up by another moderately more reliable bus. Some would wait for hours for the bus to come before finally giving up and accepting the fact the bus was not going to run that day. Large numbers of students were bussed in from the far reaches of Randolph County. Therefore, the day started very early for many of them, usually at 7:00 a.m. Because some bus routes were as long as 50 miles, students at the beginning of the trip had to arise several hours before 7:00 a.m. to catch the bus.
Junior High school male students living ona typical farm in the community of Wehadkee Alabama.
The example of typical 7th or 8th grade students living on a farm inthe Wehadkee community. They had to get up early enough to do some farm chores prior to getting ready to catch the school bus. It isn’t hard to imagine them up and doing chores before 5:am. They probably had to be at the bus stop no later than 6:00 am. Things like feeding the chickens, slopping the hogs, feeding other livestock, building fires, had to be taken careof. Some may have had to milk thecows. Some had to iron their school clothes if they were not taken care of the night before. There still needed to be time to have a meal, heavy with syrup, butter, fatback, grits and oatmeal. A lunch might be packed in a greasy brown bag if they were not ashamed to carry it to school. Off in the distance, one could hear the muffled groan of the engine of the old worn out school bus as it struggled to make its daily route. African Americans themselves purchased thefirst buses for African Americans. For many years, Randolph County did not provide buses for African American children. The school bus finally arrived, followed by a cloud of red dust kicked up by it tires. The bus iscaked with the red dust that sticks to everything that it comes in contact with. As the bus stopped, the red dustcloud that is being churned up by its wheels slowly settles to the ground, onlyto be churned up and sucked back into the air as soon as the bus resumed its journey to the next stop. Sleepy eyed and half awake children pile on at every stop. Some of these children had walked for miles just to get to the bus stop.
Eventually the bus was filled with smiling and joking children-children whowere so happy just to be going to school. These children had one thing inmind-getting an education which will get them off of the farms and insure thema better life than their fore-fathers. Manyof these children are poorly dressed, hungry and tired from working until afterdark the prior evening. After all, theyhad to work in the fields when they came home from school in the afternoon. Even though many were poorly dressed, theydid not let this fact get in the way of their education. Some had patches on their clothes, holes intheir shoes and never had the quarter that the noon lunch cost. Many never had any money, not even a dime so they could see the weekly movie. Their hunger pain for food was replaced with the filling food of education. It was Rosa Parks of the Montgomery Alabama bus boycott saga that said, “My feet are tired, but my soul is resting.” These students seem to be saying, “ my stomach is empty, but my mind is filled. I am being fed a steady diet of good foundation food.”
Shiny, clean andmostly new buses carrying white children to white schools paralleled most ofthe African American bus routes. TheWhite children would bombard the African American children with racial slurs almost daily. Some of the white kids tried to spit on African American children as they waited for the bus or walked to school. After about an hour and a half bus ride the students finally arrive at RCTS. There was little time for socialization prior the first class. The day started with morning devotion that included prayer, the pledge ofallegiance and a song. This was a dailyritual and was taken very seriously. Any disruption of the devotional services resulted in serious punishment.
Excerpted from the book, Behind These Silent Walls, published by The RCTS Reunion, 2005, Authors: Alvin, Earnestine, Gene, and Lonnie Thornton.