Interview with Patricia Ann Robinson:
Erin Porchè: What stories did your parents tell you about the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott?
Patricia Robinson: The stories that were told to me by my parents consist of the hardship of riding in the back of the bus and being treated unfairly, but still paying full price for riding the bus. They also talked about how the community came together and provided rides and transportation to work and school for those who lived in the East Baton Rouge Community in the early 50's. One of the things my mother shared with me was that since she worked on East Blvd. She could walk to work and she continued to walk to work, but the things she could do to help out she did. My grandmother and older individuals that lived in the neighborhood attended the same church that I did, talked about how they would stand on a different corner cause you couldn't stand on the regular bus corner. They had to stand somewhere else, and somebody would pick them up and take them to work, come back and pick them up from work and drop them back home. One of the things I thought about is that...well how far were the places...cause folks still walked. There were not a lot of cars back during that time. When we had these conversations, it was like 1960, '65 through '70, I was a teenager. So you know, it was like, I didn't have the bonus of living through what was going on. I was dumb to that. Because I did not think history, you know, it didn't have an impact on me. A lot of things happened when Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, the Kennedys were shot, and we had to do projects. Me being a nosy person, I wanted to know, well what did Louisiana do? What did Baton Rouge do during the Civil Rights unrest? What role did we play? My mother said, "We started it." "We were in the forefront with our bus boycott with the Rev. Jemison." I grew up on the top, South Blvd, so I was close to Mount Zion. We used to go there on Monday nights and play. It was like a youth center for us as kids. We would interact with Rev. Jamison and he would talk to us about different things that they had to do, how the church was a focus point behind the bus boycott and how the community came together.
Porchè: If you rode a segregated bus, how did you feel about riding it?
Robinson: Rev. T. J. Jemison and other members of the Fourth District, business owners such as Mr. Douglas, owner of Douglas Grocery Store, that is no longer living, and the educational community here.
Porchè: What part did the churches play in the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott Movement?
Robinson: The church served as an organizer for people who attended them. Through the churches people were informed who they could call for rides, how they were to conduct themselves, what were the legal restrictions, and what corners they could stand on to catch these rides. Also, through the churches people were informed of what they should do if they were approached by the police or city officials...or anything like that. So the churches were a resource for information and organization. The ministers along with Rev. Jemison planned this out. This was a strategically planned process and that's why it worked.
Porchè: In what other ways do you think desegregation could have been accomplished.
Robinson: If people were truly practicing Christianity and it may be a pie in the sky, but if you are a true Christian then you believe in equality for all. That's the only other way I can think of without it being forced.
Porchè: Did your parents ever explain to you the things that happened in the bus boycott?
Robinson: Yes, my mother did. If there were seats up front you had a line. It was a white line, that they had to go behind to sit in the back. If all those seats were taken that meant that you had to stand up even though there were empty seats in front. The buses would pass them, even though they were standing on the corner. The first Black women bus drivers came in the late 70's when I was going to school. There were a lot of White bus drivers who were just mean to them. Sometimes if a person was short a penny or something they would let them go and they could make up the differences, but that didn't go for Black riders. Those were the kinds of things that she use to talk about. Ms. Mary Jack would tell me things like the buses were late, and the buses weren't air conditioned. She always had to go to the back no matter how tired she was, and the buses didn't run all night. You were trying to catch the bus before that 5-7:00 time period, or you were just stuck--where ever you were?
Porchè: Thank you Ms. Robinson for the interview.