In Folkston, Georgia, I was living with a white family that was from New Mexico originally, so they were not native racists, if you will, but I was working on an OEO [Office of Economic Development] project on the wrong side of the tracks and one of my jobs was to raise money or beg borrow or steal materials to build a community playground in a black neighborhood. This little Methodist church which was all black was behind it and supporting me. Well, I didn’t tell the business community downtown that their donations were going to the other side of the tracks, thinking that if I did there would be no donations.

I had an interesting experience the last week I was there. The café where I would always go to eat my lunch was across this place I lived and worked on the white side of the tracks. Basically they looked at me and said, “There he is—that’s the nigger lover. There he is, that’s the one who got us to donate money to those niggers.” And, “Don’t serve him Mabel,” or whatever her name was. And I’m in this place and they won’t serve me lunch. “Get out of here!” and all of a sudden I thought, “Oh my god, I’m beginning to get a feeling of what this is all about.”

Jeff Niese '74