First Peaceful Demonstration
I decided to appear on the planet smack-dab in the middle of World War II. It was the summer of 1943 in Detroit, Michigan. The infamous Detroit race riots had happened a few weeks earlier. A round-faced seven-pounder with dark, pixie hair, I was the first child of Thomas and Ruth Cassells.
Dad and Mom had moved to town from Ohio, where they’d both grown up. My father was raised on a farm, the middle child of a family of 13 children. My mother, the only daughter and youngest of three, was a “city gal” from a tiny coal-mining boomtown in southern Ohio. Her family lived above her father’s barber shop.
A bustling city during war time, Detroit was wide open; automotive factories ran around-the-clock shifts and needed workers. Many from southern and rural areas migrated to this land of opportunity. Dad became employed by the city as a streetcar driver. Four of his siblings had previously moved north and settled there, so family lived nearby.
In 1943, at Wayne Diagnostic Hospital, segregation was in practice -- even in the maternity ward and nursery. The nurses apparently mistook us for white since my mom and I were fair-skinned. So, a staff member placed me in a bassinette in the section reserved for the white babies. Of course, Mom had no way to know this; newly-delivered mothers weren’t allowed to get out of bed.
When my tall, handsome, brown-skinned father came to see me for the first time, a nurse greeted him politely and showed him to the nursery window. He waited while another nurse went to fetch me from the “colored” section. Knowing my dad’s personality, I can imagine the panic when no one could locate the Cassells baby.
Finally, one nurse checked the babies across the room in the “white” section. And, there I was, happy and safe -- less than 24 hours old and already breaking the color barrier.
~ xoA ~