Vol. 15


The Back Seat

c. 1958; Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

It was 1958, I was eleven, and my family was preparing for our one and only family vacation for the year. Our destination was Washington, DC, but we had to drive down through Arkansas, across the South, and then up to DC.

In Arkansas we always stay at the home of Harold, my dad’s cousin. It was a long drive, but we were excited to finish our journey for the day. Finally we arrived! Harold’s house was a beautiful brick with a black door and a tall chimney. My dad hadn’t seen his cousin since he was a little boy, and he was stoked to see him!

Harold told us, “I need to take this boy that works at the house home. You can tag along if you would like.”

The boy who got into the back of the rusty station wagon was a young black boy. I got in the back seat with him, and my dad sat in front with Harold.

We started driving. Then Harold asked me to come sit in front with them.(1)

I said, “No, I’m okay.”

He asked again.

I replied, “No, really, I have more room back here.”

Harold pulled the station wagon over and talked to my dad in a quiet voice so that I could not hear. I was so scared that my heart was beating as fast as a cheetah. I was starting to get worried. I really wanted to know what they were saying.

My dad stared me in the eyes and said, “Son, come sit in front with us.”

Without another word I went up front with my dad and Harold.

We dropped the little boy off at his house, and then we drove back to the beautiful brick house. This time I sat in the back seat the whole time, and they did not say anything. I wondered why Harold wanted me to come sit in front with them only on the way there and not on the way back.

Later that day my dad came over to me and whispered, “Son, the reason Harold had you come and sit in the front seat was because he did not want a white boy and a black boy sitting together.”

I was so mad! I could not believe it.

My dad continued, “I know it was not right, but I did not want to get in a fight or anything like that.”

From that day on, I never forgot that moment.


The lesson my grandpa (the narrator of the story) learned from that experience was to never be a racist and to never treat black people as Harold did.

Beckett Anderson; Missouri, USA


1. At this time most cars had bench-style front seats, which could seat three people comfortably.



This copyrighted story may be copied and/or printed for limited classroom or personal use. To reprint this story in an article about The Grannie Annie, please contact The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration for permission.


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