Reflecting on Democracy and Segregation Sam Harmon, 75, tells his 12-year-old grandson, Ezra Awumey, about an incident of his own youth. It occurred when Harmon, on leave from the Navy in Washington, D.C., tried to go see a movie.
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Reflecting on Democracy and Segregation

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Reflecting on Democracy and Segregation

Reflecting on Democracy and Segregation

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

A sad experience at a movie theater is the subject of today's excerpt from the StoryCorps oral history project.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: Last week, Ezra Awumey, who's 12, interviewed his grandfather, Sam Harmon, in a StoryCorps booth in Washington, DC.

EZRA AWUMEY: What was the saddest moment of your life?

Mr. SAM HARMON: Early in the Navy, I was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. One day, my shipmates and I decided to come to Washington to visit the capital. While they were at the bars, I decided to sight-see. I walked around the monuments all day and was just tired out and decided that I would go to a movie. It was right here on Pennsylvania Avenue. There was a movie house there. And I went up to buy a ticket. There was a glass there, a ticket seller behind it, and off of the glass reflected the Capitol dome.

And I just thought to myself, `What a great way to end the day,' drinking in all of this democracy. I call for the ticket. She was reading. She punched the machine, I reached my hand to get the ticket and lay down the money, and she pulled it back and said, `You can't come in here.' She saw my black hand, and refused to sell me a ticket. The Capitol dome was superimposed on her angry face, anger that I would have the temerity to ask to buy a ticket. And I just walked the streets crying all night. That's the saddest, without any exception. It's the most painful recollection of anything that's ever happened to me that I have.

MONTAGNE: Seventy-five-year-old Sam Harmon speaking to his grandson last week here in Washington, DC. To find out when a StoryCorps mobile recording booth is coming to your town, visit npr.org.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

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