After 60 Years, Girl's Experience At Whites-Only Gas Station Still Hurts An African-American woman remembers growing up in segregated Virginia in the 1950s, and being in the car when her father tried to get gas from a whites-only truck stop.
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After 60 Years, Girl's Experience At Whites-Only Gas Station Still Hurts

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After 60 Years, Girl's Experience At Whites-Only Gas Station Still Hurts

After 60 Years, Girl's Experience At Whites-Only Gas Station Still Hurts

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It is Friday, the morning we listen to voices from StoryCorps. And today, we will hear from 65-year-old Francine Anderson. She grew up in a small town in Virginia during the 1950s. And she came to StoryCorps to share a painful childhood memory. And just a warning, this story contains a racial slur.

FRANCINE ANDERSON: We were traveling with my father in the car late at night. And there's a road that was long and dark. And my father did what no black man at the time was supposed to do - his car had run out of gas. He ended up pushing the car. And the only place he could get to was a white truck stop with the white-only signs up. And he went up to the door, and he just knocked at it. And that guy came up. He said, what are you doing, nigger? Get away from here. Can't you read? And my dad. he took his hat and held it in his hand, trying to make himself small because he was kind of a tall man. And he said to the guy, I see your sign, sir. I'm sorry. I'm not trying to disturb you or your business. I just got my young kids in the car. And can I just buy a couple of gallons of gas?

And the guy said, I don't deal with your kind. And he stepped back and he slammed the door. I saw my dad turn and walk back to the car. And I knew that my dad was afraid. And he got in the car. And I can remember asking him questions. Why can't we go? Why won't he give us any gas? And he wasn't answering. It occurred to me as a little kid, we're in real trouble. And then the door to the place opened, and another man came out. And my dad stiffened up. And this guy got to the passenger window and said, I don't know what's wrong with that guy. I'm going to go get you some gas, OK? I remember my dad was real grateful and saying, let me give you these few dollars. The guy would say, no, no. It's OK.

And I guess I felt ashamed at that moment for my dad, you know, not because he'd done anything wrong but because I felt like he had been made smaller in my eyes as a child. But now when I talk to people about that story, if I talk to whites about that story, they focus on the man and how kind he was. And he was kind. But at the same time, when I talk to blacks about that story, they're more focused on the fact that it wasn't illegal for him to deny us gas. That was the law of the land. And had my dad been defiant, the absolute risk was that you could be killed for speaking up for yourself. So it's the first time that I realized that there was real danger there. I was 5 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID WINGO AND JEFF MCILWAIN'S "HOTEL MEETING")

GREENE: Francine Anderson speaking at StoryCorps in Oakland. Her story will be archived at the Library of Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID WINGO AND JEFF MCILWAIN'S "HOTEL MEETING")

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