Next Town by Storyteller Diane Ferlatte
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Next Town by Storyteller Diane Ferlatte

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In “Next Town,” storyteller Diane Ferlatte describes one of her family’s...

In “Next Town,” storyteller Diane Ferlatte describes one of her family’s
summer trips, driving cross country from California to Louisiana to visit family.
Ferlatte’s parents had migrated from the American south to escape Jim Crow
laws and segregation. Ferlatte remembers her father responding with increasing
frustration whenever her brother asked if they could stop to get something to
eat, each time promising “next town.”
Finally, the family stopped at a restaurant, Ferlatte and her brothers tumbling
out of the car in their excitement for burgers, fries, and biscuits. Just as she is
about to open the restaurant door, her father stops her. There is a “whites
only” sign above the door. Ferlatte’s family must go around back to eat in the
kitchen. The African American cook sees Ferlatte’s frustration and makes sure
that the family gets the first biscuits of the day, fresh from the oven. While
Ferlatte learned about prejudice that day and that people could hate her
without even knowing her, she also learns about how people can help one
another and she admires her father, who even in the face of prejudice looked
“on the sunny side of life.”
Visit www.racebridgesforschools.com to download the
corresponding audio (MP3) and video (MP4) files.

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Next Town by Storyteller Diane Ferlatte Next Town by Storyteller Diane Ferlatte Document Transcript

  • NEXT TOWNby Storyteller Diane Ferlatte • www.dianeferlatte.com THEME Maintaining pride and optimism in the face of prejudice and adversity. STORY SUMMARYIn “Next Town,” storyteller Diane Ferlatte describes one of her family’ssummer trips, driving cross country from California to Louisiana to visit family.Ferlatte’s parents had migrated from the American south to escape Jim Crowlaws and segregation. Ferlatte remembers her father responding with increasingfrustration whenever her brother asked if they could stop to get something toeat, each time promising “next town.”Finally, the family stopped at a restaurant, Ferlatte and her brothers tumblingout of the car in their excitement for burgers, fries, and biscuits. Just as she isabout to open the restaurant door, her father stops her. There is a “whitesonly” sign above the door. Ferlatte’s family must go around back to eat in thekitchen. The African American cook sees Ferlatte’s frustration and makes surethat the family gets the first biscuits of the day, fresh from the oven. WhileFerlatte learned about prejudice that day and that people could hate her Diane Ferlattewithout even knowing her, she also learns about how people can help oneanother and she admires her father, who even in the face of prejudice looked“on the sunny side of life.” Visit www.racebridgesforschools.com to download the corresponding audio (MP3) and video (MP4) files. Approximate Length of Video and Audio: 5 minutes 5 seconds
  • STORY SHORT: Next Town Page 2 REFLECTIONS & DISCUSSION QUESTIONS ABOUT Next Town 1. What did you think the title “Next Town” referred to when you first read it? How do you react to the title now that you know how it was used? 2. Ferlatte’s parents left Louisiana to escape the segregated south, which oppressed African Americans with Jim Crow laws and threats of violence. Why do you think they returned every summer? Why did you think some African Americans stayed in the south? How do you imagine they dealt with the racism and oppression there? 3. Ferlatte learns significant lessons on the day she describes in this story. She learns that people can hate her without even knowing her and that there are people who maintain their integrity even in the face of such hate. When have you faced irrational prejudice in yourself or others? How did you deal with it? How might you face down such prejudice in the future, using the cook in this story and Ferlatte’s father as a model? STORY TRANSCRIPT of Next Town by Storyteller Diane FerlatteNote : The transcript below of the video and audio story is not in correct text book English. It is atranscription of the spoken story. There are also a few variations from the spoken word. This text is foryour guidance and reference as you start to study and think about this story.Hi, my name is Diane Ferlatte, and I am a storyteller. I’m gonna tell you an excerpt from a longer story of my life,a true story. In the 1940’s and 50’s, many black people just left the south because of Jim Crow laws. They werejust sick and tired of Jim Crow laws and the segregation in the south, and my family was no different. My daddyput us on a train and we left Louisiana, going all the way to California, where I live now. And things were differentin California.I liked living in California. But, guess what? Every summer, my only summer vacation, my whole family would get inthe car and drive all the way back to Louisiana to visit family, you know, grandma and grandpa. But can youimagine that? Driving thousands of mile across that desert, in all that heat, in a car, with no air conditioning. Andwe couldn’t stop, you know at hotels, get a nice rest, take a quick shower. No, the only time we stopped is to getsome gas or to use the bathroom, you know, to get rid of some gas! We couldn’t stop at restaurants either to getsomething to eat because we didn’t have a lot of money. But before we left, my mother would fry chicken; we hadsandwiches, we had cookies, we had grapes, we had apples—I mean, the car was stacked up with food andpillows. We were on our way, to Louisiana! It was me in the back seat, next to the cookies, my two knuckle-headbrothers, my mama and my daddy, and off we went.But before we left California of course the food was gone. As soon as the food was gone, my brother startedhollering, “Daddy, I’m hungry. Can we stop and get something to eat?” My father said, “Next town.” But the nexttown, “Hey, Daddy, there’s a place! Can we stop, can we stop?” He said “Next town,” and pretty soon there we
  • STORY SHORT: Next Town Page 3are at the next town. He said, “Daddy, Daddy, I’m hungry! Can we stop, daddy?” He said “Next town, boy!” Idon’t know what happened, my daddy, he must have got hungry himself because he finally stopped and when hestopped, my brother was Mr. Happy, “Oh man, I’m gonna have me a hamburger, I’m gonna have me some Frenchfries!” And I said, “I am having some biscuits!”I jumped out of the car, I ran to the front door of that restaurant. I opened the screen door, I was just about togo in and get my biscuits, and my daddy said, “Get away from that door, girl, can’t you read that sign?” And Ilooked up, and there was a sign above the restaurant door that said: “Whites only.” Black people couldn’t go in. Iwas ten years old when that happened. Ten. And I got so angry, I picked up a rock and I was gonna chunk it atthat sign and my daddy said, “Put that rock down. Don’t you pay any attention to that sign. Don’t you worry,we’re going to get something to eat. Put that rock down. Put it down!” My daddy took me by the hand and he ledus around the side of the building all the way to the back of the restaurant. It was so hot outside, you could fry anegg on the sidewalk.My daddy was talking fast, like he does when he is upset and he made me a little nervous. When he walkedthrough the back door of the restaurant, he had a big smile on his face. He walked in and he said, “Morning, how’severybody doing this morning?” But I looked around: we had to eat in the kitchen. We thought it was hot outside,try eating in that hot kitchen! Because, see, all the fans were up front in the restaurant, for the white customers.We sat down at two old, wooden tables in the kitchen, and I will never forget what happened next. It was a tall,brown-skinned woman, my color skin, standing behind the stove. She was the cook, you know, apron tied high,scarf tied around the hair so that the hair wouldn’t fall in the food she was cooking, and there was a windowbehind her that went to the restaurant, and the waitress would call all these orders to her through that window.She would say, “Eggs over easy! Bacon crisp! Biscuits!”But the cook looked over at me, and she saw my lip was poked out, and my daddy was trying to calm me down.And she said, “Biscuits not ready yet!” Then she looked back at me and said, “Don’t you worry, baby, I’m gonnafeed you all first.” So who got the first biscuits that day? We did. But as a little girl, I learned a lot about prejudice.As a little girl, I learned a lot about how people can hate you, they don’t even know you! But I also learned howsome people handle it, because even though my daddy was just as angry as me inside, he didn’t let prejudice spoilhis day or his meal. And we did get something to eat. My daddy was just like he liked his eggs—sunny-side up.Everybody liked my daddy, who took time to get to know you. He was always able to keep on the sunny side oflife—because there is the other side! But that’s the story, a true story from my life. ©2011 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools. It is a project that seeks to provide free tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This guide may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. The video and audio excerpts and transcript included in this unit is copyrighted by Diane Ferlatte. Used with permission: www.dianeferlatte.com Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com View slide