Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation by Bandy
On his first train ride, Michael meets a new friend from the “whites only” car—but finds they can hang together for only part of the trip—in the last story in a trilogy about the author’s life growing up in the segregated South.
Michael and his granddaddy always stop working to watch the trains as they rush by their Alabama farm on the way to distant places. One day Michael gets what he’s always dreamed of: his first train journey, to visit cousins in Ohio! Boarding the train in the bustling station, Michael and his grandma follow the conductor to the car with the “colored only” sign. But when the train pulls out of Atlanta, the signs come down, and a boy from the next car runs up to Michael, inviting him to explore. The two new friends happily scour the train together and play in Bobby Ray’s car—until the conductor calls out “Chattanooga!” and abruptly ushers Michael back to his grandma for the rest of the ride. How could the rules be so changeable from state to state—and so unfair? Based on author Michael Bandy’s own recollections of taking the train as a boy during the segregation era, this story of a child’s magical first experience is intercut with a sense of baffling injustice, offering both a hopeful tale of friendship and a window into a dark period of history that still resonates today.