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The Civil Rights Movement in Vintage Postcards

July 7th, 2007 · No Comments

Greyhound Bus Station in Jackson, Mississippi

The great graphics in this unused c. 1930s to 1940s vintage postcard of the Art Deco-style Greyhound bus station in Jackson, Mississippi don’t give a hint of the building’s importance to the Civil Rights movement. Bus travel was often one of the few reliable means of travel for black Americans prior to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Travel by car through Southern states, in particular, could be dangerous, and the number of motels accepting black travelers was, frankly, unpredictable. Often, weary travelers rode the bus: it was economical, and they could sleep on the bus. In fact, this Jackson, MS bus stop was nicknamed the “Jackson Hilton.”

This Greyhound bus depot also played a role in black history: it was the destination of the second Freedom Riders’ bus on 24 May 1961. After their arrival, hundreds of civil rights demonstrators were detained in animal pens at the State Fairgrounds. The post card has ““cross-over” appeal to collectors of black Americana, roadside Americana and Hinds County material.

The bus station was also noteworthy for its streamlined Art Deco appearance. The blue glass on it was Vitrolite, a type of structural glass often used decoratively on the façades of Art Deco and Art Moderne buildings for its bold impression. It was last manufactured in 1947. Unlike terra cotta, which had been used experimentally and primarily for ornamentation in earlier 20th c. architecture, Vitrolite didn’t warp or swell and wasn’t prone to fading or staining. Impervious to moisture and easily cleaned with a damp cloth, it made streetside maintenance easy. In other words, it was perfect for a building which received heavy traffic, like the bus station. Vitrolite could also be brilliantly colored, as seen here.

You can see more antique postcards and black Americana on our website.

Learn about collectible black Americana trade cards, which offer insights into American social history.

Copyright ©2007

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