The train pulled into Richmond under a heavy sky. The platform was wet and the air moist. Children ran up and down the platform stomping their feet in the puddles of water the afternoon showers had left behind. Porters buzzed busily, but kept their heads lowered, careful not to make direct eye contact with the men who’d been sent down from Detroit to recruit workers for the Ford Motor Company. Ford was paying his employees five dollars a day and Southern states found their cheap labor streaming out of their towns and cities as quickly as sand through a sieve.
Some recruiters had been abducted and beaten. But ford just sent more in their place and so the railroad officials had begun to systematically prohibit the sale of northbound tickets to Negroes or inflate the price to such an exorbitant level that it became unaffordable.
Easter followed Madeline into the colored waiting area. She’d promised to sit with her until the train headed to New York arrived. They bought two oranges, squeezed into a space on a long, wooden bench, and quietly worked at peeling the thick skin from the fruit.
“I really think you should come with me to New York,” Madeline suggested for the umpteenth time. “I can get you a job at the hair salon and I can’t see my my landlady minding you staying with me until you got your own place.”
Easter bit down into the wedge of fruit and the sweet juice coated the inside of her cheek. She didn’t have an excuse not to go and couldn’t rationalize why she felt so resistant to the idea.
“Easter, it’s not like anyplace you’ve ever been before.”
Easter laughed to herself. Where had Madeline been that allowed her to make such a grand statement. Waycross, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida, that’s it.
Madeline pressed, “You ain’t got nobody here; at least in New York you’d have me and my aunt Minnie in the Bronx.”
Easter chuckled, “She still make ambrosia?”
Madeline nodded and her face brightened. She was wearing Easter down. “Oh, say you’ll come,” she whined. “If you don’t like it you can always leave.”
Easter thought about it for a moment. “Okay.”
The conductor rang his bell and hollered, “All aboard!” The whistle sounded and the train huffed great billowing clouds of steam. Easter clutched her ticket tightly in her hand. She was headed to New York. A quiet excitement percolated in her stomach and she felt a smile light on her lips. When the nose of the train edged across the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania, a young, dark porter appeared and unceremoniously removed the tin sign above the doorway that stated, COLORED.
The car exploded in applause and hearty whoops went up into the air. Couples kissed one another full on the lips. Parents grabbed hold of their children and squeezed. Easter felt something lift inside of her and her leg began to bounce with anticipation.
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