Blood Done Sign My Name, by Timothy B. Tyson. It's a personal and very engaging reflection upon the racial divide that existed in the author's hometown of Oxford, NC, during his childhood in the 1960s. Tyson, the son of a Methodist minister, is about the same age as I am. His description of conditions in the south during his childhood brought back my own memories of growing up in the small textile town of Union, SC.
I clearly remember the many ways African Americans were demeaned and discriminated against in my hometown before the 1970s. At my doctor's office they had a separate (and much smaller and plainer) waiting room. In downtown businesses they had separate water fountains and bathrooms. They had to sit in the balcony in the Duncan Theater. They had their own funeral home, taxi cabs, and restaurants. Even their obituaries were announced on the radio at a separate time from whites. They lived literally on the other side of the tracks.
My parents always employed an African American maid, as far back as I can remember. I loved them. They washed and ironed our clothes, cleaned our house, and stayed at home with me while my parents were out working. I remember riding in the car when my mother drove our maids home at the end of the day, seeing the shacks they lived in. I remember feeling very sad. But, as Tyson points out in his book, it was unfortunately the accepted way back in those days. I even remember a Ku Klux Klan rally in the fairgrounds not far from my house.
One of my most vivid memories about the racial divide in my hometown is the time there was an uprising of black high school students during the days of integration. It would have been 1970 or '71. It was scary. One day they ran through the halls of our school smashing trophy cases and windows. Eventually things calmed down, but there were National Guard troops on my high school campus for several days in a row. The whites and blacks on my football team cried together and helped keep unity during very trying times. But I can understand the anger that fueled the emotion of those days. I have not experienced, as they did, my beloved high school getting turned into a middle school...losing my school mascot and having to adopt that of another group of people who didn't want me around...or growing up knowing that many people in my town thought they were superior to me.
I recommend you read this book to get a little bit of a feel for the African American experience. Granted, it's through the eyes of a white Southerner, but that makes it all the more important.