Struggling for Our Rights:
Coming of Age in Springfield, Illinois 1899 - 1919
by Ruth Ellis
The city was prejudiced. We couldn't go to the restaurants. Some theaters wouldn't let you in at all. And if one theater happened to let you go, you'd have to sit in the back. In the opera house you'd have to sit to the last gallery, we called peanut heaven. Good restaurants, you couldn't go in them. The only restaurant you could go in was what do you call a short order place where they serve chili, you just couldn't go.
I went to a mixed school, and the colored children didn't have the opportunities that the white children had. We couldn't partake in any of the activities. The boys couldn't belong to the baseball, football or the swimming teams. We couldn't go to the Y to swim. If you wanted to learn how to swim you had to go to the Sangamon River and that was a dangerous place to go to learn how to swim. Our Daddy wouldn't let us go out there, because someone had drowned out there. So we didn't have the opportunity to enjoy sports.
We lost a lot of things. We never knew how to swim, how would you learn? How would you learn these different things if you didn't get to do these things? Where would you learn them? Couldn't learn them in the city. So that made it bad for the colored children. We had no chance to advance like the white children. And that is what segregation does.