By Charles Moseley
The noun bus and the verb busing take on a unique significance when viewed in the context of the civil rights movement. Few words have had such a polarizing effect on people than these two simple words-bus and busing. Depending on what side of the tracks you grew up on during the better part of the 20th century would have a profound impact on how you viewed riding a bus whether it be to school, work, or play. Where you rode on “The Bus” was clearly defined along racial lines.
In his autobiography W. George Allen peals back all the layers ingrained in the American fabric to reveal what it was like to grow up a poor Black boy in the “Jim Crow.”
Despite tremendous odds against him, Allen never gives up on his dream to someday carve out his piece of the American dream. While in pursuit of that dream, Allen not only breaks down racial barriers never crossed by one individual in Florida, but creates a legacy based on opening up the door to equality for countless others to realize their dreams.
“Where The Bus Stops,”metaphorically examines one man’s ability to overcome that symbolic example of racial injustice. Allen is unafraid and unapologetic in showing that the “Bus Stops” within each individual who is willing to take a similar stand in their lives.
His book chronicles the many accomplishments of his life from the very beginning of his birth in 1936 revealing his thoughts as a student in the segregated school system of Sanford, Florida to attending Florida A & M University and becoming the first African American to graduate from the University of Florida’s law school in 1962 and spans over a half a century in which he not only achieved the dreams he set out to realize as that young “colored boy” growing up in a rural racist community to becoming one of the most respected legal figures in the history of state of Florida.
Allen held court, if you will, during a recent book signing which took place July 16, at Fort Lauderdale’s historic African American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLCC). Allen shared what inspired him to write the book as he addressed a crowd of family members and well wishers from throughout South Florida. He spoke about what it was like growing up in Sanford during the 1930’s and 1940’s.
“Growing up in Sanford, Florida on the wrong side of the tracks I always wanted to strive to get on the right side or the White side, and so it was an inspiration. As I passed by everyone else’s house, I thought, ‘when I grow up I’m going to get me a white folk’s house. I’m going to have me a white folk’s job. I’m going to live better.’ And that was the inspiration. I graduated from high school in 1954. Everything was separate and unequal.”
Two of Allen’s sons, Frederick and Jonathan attended the book signing to lend their sup-port to their father who they say has been a role model to them and an African American pioneer throughout the civil rights movement. Frederick operates a franchise for the Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company and Jonathan is the City Manager for the City of Lauderdale Lakes.
‘My dad’s story is I think a story that will inspire both young and old. It is a story of accomplishment and hard work from the celery fields to crossing the Florida bar into the legal profession. It is one of achievement that I have been lucky enough to have enjoyed the fruits of his labor. I have been exposed to a very good life. If there was one thing I would say that I wanted people to know about him is that he never gives up on people, myself included. He has mentored a lot of his friends and my friends through the years. I used to not understand that and as I’ve become older now I have come to realize how much he loves his people,” said Frederick.
“I think the significance of this event is that it gives my father an opportunity to give the oral history of how he’s made a significant contribution not just to the history of Broward County but the history throughout the state of Florida and that has extended and allowed other people to stand up to accomplish many things whether it be in the legal profession in the law or city management or in the financial sector he’s laid the foundation for many people,” said Jonathan.
Janice Hayes also grew up in Fort Lauderdale and was a childhood friend and classmate of Allen’s son Frederick. She acknowledged the tremendous impact that Atty. Allen has had on so many people in her community.
“I have heard of George Allen all of my life. We all know him for being a great attorney. He broke down a lot of civil rights barriers throughout South Florida. I thought it would be important to use this opportunity as a bridge to witness how this community has evolved throughout the civil rights movement up until this time,” said Hayes.
Newton Sanon Pesident and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Opportunities Industrial Center (OIC) of Broward County, was in attendance. Atty. Allen sits on the OIC’s Board of Directors.
“I think it is important that we acknowledge people from our community that have contributed to the success of this community for many years which is what the honorable W. George Allen has done for the past 30 or 40 years. He’s has served as our board chair for the past six years. I have first hand experience not on just what people say but what he actually has done to help this community committing his time, money, and resources to help OIC.”
City of Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Bobby Dubose is a product of the same community where Atty. Allen fought to desegregate Broward County’s public school system.
He weighed in on the historical significance of the book signing while stressing that everyone be aware of that person’s from the African American community who have made such a major contribution to their community.
“What a phenomenal man? I think it’s great when someone that has experienced so much in regards to the history of our community can document it in a book that will be around for generations to come. I think it’s a great footprint for our community for our future generations to look at what he has to offer which is that foot print. He has served us well and continues to serve us well. He is the Chair for the search committee to find a new city attorney for the City of Fort Lauderdale. So here’s a man that has done so much and continues to do so,” said Commissioner Dubose.
Atty. Allen summed up his keys to success in the no non-sense customary fashion that he had become known for throughout his career as a legal giant and champion of the disenfranchised during the heyday of Florida’s civil rights movement. He offered the following advice to those as they face adversity in their lives.
“You must study hard and keep an open mind. You never know what you could end up being.”
At 75 Allen continues to lead by example, vowing never to waver from his pledge to stand tall in the face of adversity. His legacy is not unlike countless African American heroes who waged a courageous battle based on the notion that all God’s children are created equal.
Be the first to comment