Interview with Joseph Azbell
QUESTION 1
INTERVIEWER:

LET ME START BY ASKING YOU TO PAINT US A WORD PICTURE OF MONTGOMERY IN 1955 ESPECIALLY IN TERMS OF RACE RELATIONS?

Joseph Azbell:

Well, Montgomery in 1955, in terms of race relations was a typical Southern city but much more so segregated than most Southern cities because we are called the "Cradle of the Confederacy." And there is a tradition in Montgomery of having, of having, the carrying out the old confederate South type of things, the Stars and Bars flags, and there was a great deal of talk of states' rights, and the White Citizens' Council which calls itself the Citizens' Council, and dropped the white but it was still the same. It was in existence, there was a oh, one black on the baseball team, and that was very proud, but no black held public office, no black was on any committees whatsoever. The government, state government, city government, county government, or what have you, it was a totally segregated community. Department stores had white water fountains, and colored water fountains. They had white toilets, men and women, and colored, men and women. It was a good deal for plumbers [laughter]. You got with every service station, you got four—four seats, because you had the white males, the white female, the black male and the black female. And then there was a water fountain, you had two water fountains, one for the whites and one for the blacks. The the only integration in transportation in Montgomery at that time was the vertical integration. Vertical integration being that you rode on the elevator squeezed up next to all the blacks, but you could not ride on a bus or in a taxi. We had separate taxis, you had black taxis and you had white taxis, and the poor guy that called a—looked in the phone book and called a, the black taxi, he was told by the black taxi driver, "I'm sorry I can't take you, you have to call a white taxi‚" ** and he'd tell him, and one of the names for one of the white taxis was , [laughter] but it didn't carry anybody but whites. But it was a, it was it was a very sweet, easy going, easy flowing Southern town, immune to riots, immune to trouble and what have you, and anybody that tried to start any trouble, well, they were just troublemakers. It was a great big, beautiful city. We had, we had 2,500 Jewish people here, who had come from the Island of Robes. They were mostly Sephardic, or Spanish Jews, and we had a Orthodox synagogue, and we had a Reform synagogue. So we had all three branches of Judaism, and they were totally integrated into the community, well accepted. It would take a long time to tell you all about Montgomery, but it was a Southern town.