By Lila Sullivan
South Carolina in the ’50s was a mean place. My family on both sides had deep roots there. My great grandfather fought in the Civil War, or as my grandmother always said, “The War Between the States.” She was a proud member of the Daughters of the Confederacy, and I got to dress up in costume and serve cookies at their meetings. Wade Hampton was considered a saint by my grandmother. (Hampton was a Civil War hero and leader of the Red Shirts, a vigilante group known for violence.) Both my parents were highly educated and very prejudiced.
By the age of 6, I knew something was badly amiss with the Southern way of life. At that age, I was told that I was too old to play with the black children who lived nearby on my great uncle’s farm. Around that time, I asked my father if black people went to heaven. He replied that of course they did if they were Christians. I then asked, “Well, why don’t we all go to church together here?” His answer was that black people liked to be with “their own kind.
Sullivan is a retired teacher from the Botetourt County School system. She lives in Salem.