Signs of segregation disappeared quickly (unless they didn’t)

“Segregation of public facilities — including water fountains and restrooms — was officially outlawed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson….

“In Raleigh, Wilmington and other Southern cities, businesses seem to have complied grudgingly but promptly…. In smaller towns and rural areas, however, Jim Crow customs lingered longer.

“Local history librarian Beverly Tetterton remembers seeing fading ‘White’ and ‘Colored’ signs on the restrooms of shuttered gas stations when she first came to town in the 1970s.

“Elliott Erwin of Magnum Photos took a celebrated black-and-white photo of a segregated water fountain in North Carolina in 1950.”

— From “When did segregated water fountains end?” by Ben Steelman in the Wilmington StarNews (June 5, 2009)


“In one of his anecdotal books, ‘Only in America,’ [Harry] Golden said that he once persuaded a North Carolina department store owner to put an ‘Out of Order’ sign over his ‘white’ drinking fountain. Little by little, whites began drinking out of the ‘colored’ fountain, and by the end of the third week ‘everybody was drinking the “segregated” water.’ ”

— From “Harry Golden, an editor and humorist, 79, dead” in the New York Times (Oct. 3, 1981)


Golden and Sandburg tout ‘a young fellow from Boston’

“By the end of the 1960 campaign Golden had made more than 50 speeches supporting a Kennedy presidency. When speaking to Jewish audiences in California, Golden was joined by Carl Sandburg, in Hollywood at the time serving as a consultant on a film. The two men on the stump together were a bit of genius.

” ‘I played the impresario by keeping him in the wings,’ Golden explained. He introduced his friend with a flourish: ‘I brought you a bonus — Carl Sandburg!’ Sandburg usually drew a standing ovation. The cheers would break out anew when the older man [Sandburg] paused and — as if he had just thought of the phrase — declared, ‘We are just a couple of North Carolina boys plugging for a young fellow from Boston who will make us a good president.’ ”

— From “Carolina Israelite: How Harry Golden Made Us Care about Jews, the South, and Civil Rights” by Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett (2015)


Harry Golden, Charlotte’s interpreter of Jewishness

“[Charlotte’s] Baptists, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians counted on [Harry] Golden to provide the Jewish view on everything from Noah’s ark to Israel bonds.

“True, it was sometimes irritating to give his all to a speech in  front of an appreciative church audience only to be asked afterward if he knew ‘Mr. Cohen, who lived next door in New Orleans.’ ‘It never ceases to amaze me how so many Gentiles believe that all Jews meet in some cellar once a week,’ he wrote in 1953.

“But Golden was more often amused by such incidents, which were rooted in efforts to be hospitable and correct. ‘These Southerners are deeply concerned over the possibility that  of an “oversight” occurring when there are Jewish guests at their annual banquets. If pork is on the menu, they automatically serve you chicken, without comment or inquiry,’ he wrote. ‘The fact that the chicken was usually fried in butter or lard was beside the point.’ ”

— From “Carolina Israelite: How Harry Golden Made Us Care about Jews, the South, and Civil Rights” by Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett (2015)


It wasn’t just race that fascinated Harry Golden

“Two aspects of life in Charlotte intrigued [Harry] Golden from the minute he arrived in the early 1940s: hookers and segregation.

” ‘All the whores frequented the post office,’ he wrote. ‘On a weekday evening, dozens of salesmen repaired to the Charlotte post office to send in their reports to home offices in Cincinnati or New York or Chicago. The minute a man dropped that brown envelope in the brass out-of-town slot, the women watching knew he wasn’t a cop and he was probably lonely.’

“He added, ‘The cheap night rates for [telephone] long distance did more to subdue prostitution that all the vice crusades ever mounted.’ “

— From “Carolina Israelite: How Harry Golden Made Us Care about Jews, the South, and Civil Rights” by Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett (2015)


N.C. turns away federal dollars for poor (1933 version)

“North Carolina’s Senator Josiah Bailey, who voted against the Federal Emergency Relief Act and the National Recovery Administration in 1933, publicly worried about the burden on his poor state to meet the act’s one-third matching funds requirement….

“When the act passed, $40 million was distributed over three years in the state for public projects and relief, including direct aid to blacks from the federal government for the first time since Reconstruction — another thorn in the side of Southern politicians. The state’s contribution of $700,000, far below the required match, and its stalling with on complying with various other conditions denied North Carolinians the full benefit of the programs….”

— From “Carolina Israelite: How Harry Golden Made Us Care about Jews, the South, and Civil Rights” by Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett (2015)


The white Southern Protestant, as seen by Harry Golden

“[Harry] Golden claimed that Jews and African-Americans shared a friendly history in the South because Southern Jewish store-owners allowed black customers to try on clothes and addressed them as ‘Mr.’ when others did not. ‘The white Protestant in the South loves “the Jewish people,” but is highly suspicious of the individual Jew. His emotions are in reverse with respect to the Negro. He loves the individual Negro, but hates the “people,”‘ Golden wrote.”

— From “Race And Identity In The ‘Golden’ Era” by Eliza McGraw in the Jewish Week (Oct. 20, 2010)


Remembering Harry Golden with history on a stick

“In modern America, anyone who attempts to write satirically about the events of the day finds it difficult to concoct a situation so bizarre that it may not actually come to pass while his article is still on the presses.”

— The “(Harry) Golden Rule,” as posited by New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin

High on my personal list of underappreciated North Carolinians is Harry Golden, the Charlotte author and journalist whose proposals such as the Vertical Integration Plan hilariously exposed the vulnerability of segregationist doctrine.
Today at 2:30 p.m. a North Carolina highway marker will be unveiled at Golden’s home in the Elizabeth neighborhood, Seventh Street and Hawthorne Lane.
Just wondering: How ought Trillin’s “still on the presses” be updated for the digital age?

Harry Golden strikes blow for gradualism

“Last week [after proposing the widely publicized Golden Vertical Negro Plan, Harry] Golden proudly disclosed an even more ambitious formula for desegregation: the Golden Out-of-Order Plan.
“In Charlotte, whose population is 27% Negro, he persuaded a department-store manager to hang an ‘out-of-order’ sign on the drinking fountain reserved for white customers.
“In a few days, reported Golden, white and Negro customers were cheerfully sharing the ‘Colored’ drinking fountain. ‘It is possible,’ he concluded, ‘that whites may accept desegregation, if they are assured that the segregated facilities still exist, albeit “out-of-order.” My key to the plan is to keep the sign up for at least two years. We must do this thing gradually.’ “
— From Time magazine, April 1, 1957

Golden untarnished by revelation of prison record

On this day in 1958: In New York, Harry Golden’s publisher receives an anonymous letter asking, “Do you know that your author . . . is a swindler, a cheat, and an ex-con and jail bird who has victimized widows and orphans?”

In fact, almost no one knows that Golden, whose “Only in America” ranks No. 1 on the nonfiction best-seller list, is the Harry Goldhurst who served 4-1/2 years in a New York prison for mail fraud and stock manipulation. Golden was released in 1933 and in 1940 moved to Charlotte, where he became nationally known as publisher of the Carolina Israelite, an iconoclastic monthly, and as author of warm and witty memoirs.

The revelation about his prison record will not only prove harmless to Golden’s writing career but also expand his fame to television, where Jack Paar makes him a frequent guest on the “Tonight Show.”

Charlotte wasn’t a bottled water kind of town

“When I first came to Charlotte [in 1941], I was the only poor Jew in town. I lived in drab bungalows whose siding often sprang for want of nails and there were occasions when I couldn’t meet the rent for my room in a semi-transient hotel whose curtains were stiff from a decade’s dirt. When I wore tan and brown summer shoes in December, Gentiles thought me eccentric.

“They were right. I was trying to make a living by selling Pure Midas Spring Water to folks who drank Coca-Cola for breakfast.”

— From “Travels Through Jewish America” by Harry Golden with Richard Goldhurst  (1973)