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Richard Spratt

Richard Spratt

Born: Charlotte, NC, United States
Heritage: African American

Take advantage of what you have today and enjoy it. A big wide world is out there and there are a lot things waiting for you and a lot of opportunities. You live in an interesting time and I think my advice would be to enjoy it now and enjoy the fourth grade and look forward to fifth grade. Study and do your homework and most of all, be kind to each other. That would be my advice for you today.

Richard Spratt

My name is Richard Spratt. I was born in 1947 in Charlotte, North Carolina. I have one brother and a sister. I went to school with all children who were black. The first time I went to school with students who were white was in college, here in Minnesota, in Augsburg College in 1971.

I was about 15 when I got my first job at what you call a carhop at South 21 Drive-In. I’m working at my job and one day my sister and her boyfriend drove over to the drive-in. They came to order lunch. It was exciting to see my sister. So I went out to the car and said to everyone else around, “That’s my sister and I’ll wait on her.” I went to her car and said, “Hello and good to see you.”

Pretty soon over the intercom a big voice said to come inside please. Why do they want me? I didn’t have any orders to pick up. I went to the counter and he said, “You can’t wait on her. She has to come inside.” The reason was because we were African American and we couldn’t go in drive in and sit in the car and order food.

After I told my sister I couldn’t wait on her, I went back to my station by the building and would not wait on any more cars that day. I didn’t go back to my job for three to four days. There was a telephone call and they said they want you to come back and work. They were sorry what happened and explained to me because of the rules of segregation I couldn’t wait on my sister. It wasn’t their rules but the rules in the town at the time. On that day I knew what segregation meant and knew it didn’t feel good. I didn’t want others to experience the same thing. I decided from then to work hard to make changes in people.

During that time of segregation they would have these little signs. One says colored people and one says white people. If you went into a department store and they had a water fountain, one would say colored people and the other white people.

My brother decided one day the water must taste differently if you were white. We wanted to have a taste. My brother said we’d stand guard. My brother stood outside the door and said, “Ok go ahead and try it.” I took a sip out of the white fountain. He said, “Ok. Now try the colored fountain. Does it taste different?” I said no, not really. My brother did the same and asked, “Does it taste different?” No. The water was the same.

They had different rules for different people. That wouldn’t be fun to live like that. Thirty-eight years later I get in my car and put my family in the car and we go on vacation to North Carolina. I took my family, Kloie, Katia, Zo, and we went to the South 21 Drive-In and they came out and took my order. I didn’t have to go inside and we had wonderful hamburgers and milkshakes.


Be Kind Is My Advice Today

Honoring Richard Spratt

Be Kind Is My Advice Today
(Honoring Richard Spratt)

Oh no! Don’t treat me that way!
Be kind is my advice for you today

My name is Richard Spratt
I’ll tell you about
Growing up along the coast
Way down in the South
In those times of Civil Rights
Working to change things
For the better for all people
With Martin Luther King

If you were white you went to
a better school than I
Everything divided up
along racial lines
Which I didn’t understand
until I turned 15
As a car hop at a drive-in
it affected me

Then one day while working
my sister drove up
In a car with her boyfriend
to order lunch
When I went to wait on her
The boss told me “Come in!
Your sister cannot be served
‘Cause of the color of her skin”

My sister said, “That’s okay!
Don’t worry about it.”
But for me it made me sad
and angry, so I quit
After three days
my boss called
and came to my house
To apologize for the law
of segregation in the South

On that day I made a vow
to give my life
Seeking justice for those
denied their civil rights
From water fountains,
to the bus,
to passenger trains
From no matter where you are
It’s time to make a change

Music by LARRY LONG. Words by LARRY LONG with Mrs. Valme’s fourth grade class of Fair School. Crystal, Minnesota

©Larry Long 2010 / BMI