Mid-Century Mississippi: Segregation in the Jet Age

Today’s post is a follow-up to the previous Mid-Century Mississippi post about the opening of Jackson’s new jet airport in 1963. It’s a follow-up even though it was written a year earlier than that grand opening, because it shows the difficulties the state was having after World War II being both racially segregated and “modern.” Although this editorial is unsigned, it was presumably written by Hazel Brannon Smith, the publisher of the Northside Reporter and the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. In it, she is reacting, perhaps, to the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins and takes the idea of segregated lunch counters to its extreme to nudge her readers into thinking about the illogic of segregation in general.

1862 Thinking
Jackson’s New Jet Age Airport Poses a Problem

The terminal building for Jackson’s new jet model airport now under construction is expected to be completed late this year. Commercial air traffic is expected to be routed into the field some time next year.

Already Air National Guard buildings have been completed and Air National Guard planes will start using one of the long runways late this year.

So Mississippi goes into the Jet Age! — at least our leading airport does.

Noting the news of the past few days, this may pose a problem.

We wonder if the plans for the terminal building have been altered to accommodate Mississippi’s own special way of handling a desegregated dining room?

If so, there will probably be a counter several hundred feet long to serve all of the passengers, white and colored, who alight from planes setting down in Jackson. We can just see that counter stretching from Rankin County probably all the way to Jackson–with hundreds of weary travelers trying frantically to balance a sandwich and a suit case.

Isn’t it about time we apply a little intelligence to at least some of our policies?

People who travel must have places to secure food and drink–just as they must have rest room and waiting room facilities.

And regardless of what anyone says, the mutual use by two races of public travel facilities, whether in the dining, waiting or rest rooms, does not constitute either “mixing” or “integration” — no more than using the same banks, grocery and department stores.

It’s about time we recognize just a few simple facts of life, at least.

Come to think of it, we don’t know a single Mississippian (who can afford to travel) who stays at home because travel facilities everywhere else in the world are completely desegregated.

The truth is we may be going into the “jet age” mechanically — but too much of our thinking is still 1862.

Northside Reporter, Aug. 9, 1962

JACKSON , MISSISSIPPI, ALLEN C. THOMPSON MUNICIPAL AIRPORT . . . This modern jet age airport offers hotel, restaurant, gift shop and newsstand facilities, as well as housing airline offices.

JACKSON , MISSISSIPPI, ALLEN C. THOMPSON MUNICIPAL AIRPORT . . . This modern jet age airport offers hotel, restaurant, gift shop and newsstand facilities, as well as housing airline offices.

Categories: Civil Rights, Modernism, Recent Past


6 replies

  1. Did anyone in the 1960s propose that the new airport have separate restrooms and lunch counter? Separate waiting areas?


    • In 1961, Jackson asked for federal funds to construct the new airport. FAA withheld funds during construction because the plans called for separate waiting facilities.


    • It would be interesting to see the original floor plan of the airport, or better yet the proposed floor plan. It wouldn’t be surprising that it would have been proposed as a segregated facility since railroad stations were still segregated as were bus stations, so why not airports? Another instance of the federal government insisting on integrated facilities was the VA Hospital and there was a brouhaha about that. I have an article somewhere about that too I’ll have to find somewhere.


  2. Great writer! Good story. Enjoyed very much.


  3. Duplicating everything without the possibility of any tangible return must have been a quite expensive side effect of these ridiculous policies.


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