Friday, June 30, 2006

Painted White ~ Welcome To Klan Country



Memories fade and Ektachromes fade but sometimes we need to be reminded of the way things were a just a couple of generations ago. In case you can't easily read the sign it says:

YOU ARE IN THE HEART OF KLAN COUNTRY

WELCOME TO NORTH CAROLINA

JOIN THE UNITED KLANS OF AMERICA

That billboard even had lights so you could read it at night. It was located on this run down tobacco farm along U.S. Route 301, which was later replaced by I-95 which followed essentially the same route but bypassed (and mostly killed off) all the small towns along the way. I guess it was in the late 1960's when I shot this photo. Gas stations and restaurants had seperate "White" and "Colored" bathrooms, and blacks could only buy take-out unless they were lucky enought to drive through a town with the colored section on the highway that had a colored restaurant. There weren't many of those.

What I liked about my trips through North Carolina was the price of cigarettes. North Carolina didn't have a state tax on tobacco products. $1.85 a carton was 50 cents cheaper than Florida or Massachusettes. In an era when you could buy a decent sit down lunch for under a buck and a motel was maybe $8 a night you could cover your trip expenses by bootlegging a trunk load of smokes. Everybody did it.

The sad thing is that there are still people who'd like to erect signs like this along the Interstate. The Klan still lives!

6 Comments:

Blogger N.C.Street Photography said...

Living here in N.C. for most of my life I have never seen this sign. Looking @ it now makes me wonder how such a sign could of been allowed. Like you quoted Dylan in an earlier post...times,they are a changin.
cheers,gb

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was stationed in washington d.c. in 1972 I was discharged from the navy and I drove past this sign. I couldn't believe my eyes. I remember stopping and photographing it, though I no longer have the picture. somethings in the country are better not, but we have a long way to go

John gillon, Portland or.

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember that sign very well along I-95 going into and leaving Fayetteville, NC. I looked it up to prove to someone that it really existed.

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found your blog looking for this sign. As a kid in the late 60's and early 70's, we drove from NY to FL and back, a LOT. Construction on I-95 wasn't completed yet, and there were a lot of detours. But I remember, very soon after crossing the state's line, being greeted with this sign. I was a kid - knew who the Klan was - but had never seen anything like this. And I was shocked, but being a kid, I got a little excited (Wow! Did you see that?!!) until my grandmother pointed out that they didn't like Yankees or Catholics either, and would I please shut up LOL. I wonder about the how and when that this was taken down. I'll never forget seeing it, but sure enough, not everyone believes me when I tell the story. Thank you for posting this. We need to remember that Jim Crow was not part of ancient history, but in fact, right here and now in our lifetime

10:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember as a child visiting relatives in N.C. always driving past this sign. As an adult whenever I told anybody about this sign they didn't believe me. Thank you for posting.

5:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember this sign.In the late 60's I hitched a ride from Baltimore to Augusta Ga. Three white youth traveling from New York to Florida picked me up just south of Richmond Va. I was a 19 year old Black kid who had never been south of DC. The white kids (two guys and a girls)had obviously never been south either. we were all in shock and though they gave me a ride all the way to Georgia there was an underlying tension as a result of seeing that welcoming sign.

4:23 PM  

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