SPENCER, NC (WBTV) - The N.C. Transportation Museum’s numerous Black History Month offerings are planned to continue into the month of March, giving visitors an even greater opportunity to explore the connection between African-Americans and transportation history.
A Black History Scavenger Hunt, special displays on Winston-Salem’s Safe Bus Company and the Carthage-based Tyson and Jones Buggy Company, and a big-screen presentation on the history of the Tuskegee Airmen can be a part of the museum experience.
Black History Scavenger Map
The Black History Scavenger Map is a self-guided tour of permanent and visiting museum exhibits relating to black history. The all-black firefighters known as the Quick Steps, black inventors who contributed to transportation safety, Jim Crow laws, and the music of turn of the century lining bar gangs are all explored. This interactive map includes a quiz for families to learn as they tour the museum.
Safe Bus Company
A special temporary exhibit, the Winston-Salem Transit Authority is now displaying a bus from the Safe Bus Company, which operated in the city from 1926 to 1972. The Safe Bus Company was formed during the 1920s to provide transportation to primarily black neighborhoods, which were largely underserved by the city’s trolley service, Southern Public Utilities Company.
The company was formed from twenty-one separate “jitney” operators who had been serving these neighborhoods competitively. Safe Bus continued to grow to more than 80 drivers carrying some 8,000 passengers each day. When Winston-Salem’s contracted bus carrier departed the city in 1968, Safe Bus was tapped to provide transportation to all residents, making it the largest African-American-owned and operated transportation business in the world.
In 1972, the Winston-Salem Transit Authority purchased the assets of the Safe Bus Company.
Tyson and Jones Buggy Company
On exhibit from the North Carolina town of Carthage, the Tyson and Jones buggy tells an amazing story of success against enormous odds. In 1857, William T. Jones, a freed slave, joined the Tyson and Kelly Buggy Company as a painter. He was so successful at his duties that he was made a partner in the firm two years later, and the business flourished, as Tyson, Kelly & Company.
Jones fought in the Confederacy during the Civil War and was captured as a Confederate Colonel. Still, he managed to be success in a wartime prison, making and selling moonshine to Union prison guards. The earnings he made were used to relaunch the buggy company upon his return from the war.
In 1872, Tyson and Jones bought out Alexander Kelly and the name of the firm changed to Tyson & Jones. About 100 buggies were produced by hand in a year’s time, but Jones pushed for innovation. With the addition of a steam engine, circular saws, drills, a planer and other machines, production jumped to 600 buggies per year.
Through the 1880s and 1890s, with continued innovation, attention to quality, and hard work, Tyson and Jones buggies could be found in all southern states, with Dallas, Texas as one of their most important markets. At peak production, 3,000 vehicles a year rolled off the factory floor. Trend-setting members of society viewed Tyson and Jones buggies as a marker of high social standing.
William Jones, a freed slave, was one of the most successful men in town, with a beautiful home. Married to a Caucasian woman, his race was simply never mentioned in town.
While the widespread adoption of the automobile eventually led to the demise of the company, Tyson and Jones Buggy Company is celebrated each year in Carthage.
Jones home is now the Old Buggy Inn, where guests can reside when visiting during the annual Buggy Festival.
RISE ABOVE: America’s Tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen
Feb. 27 through March 3, the museum welcomes a mobile movie theater that tells the story of the nation’s first African American pilots.
Rise Above: America’s Tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed all-black fighting squadron who broke down barriers with their courage and determination to serve the United States during WWII.
In response to campaign promises made by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the U.S. Army Air Corps reversed its long-standing rejection of black applicants to its aviator program. In 19441, a segregated air unit was created that would eventually be referred to as the Tuskegee Airmen.
The Tuskegee Airmen’s record of success in wartime was a leading factor in the desegregation of all of the nation’s armed forces and helped set the stage for further civil rights changes in the decades to come.
The traveling theater presents the story on a 160-degree panoramic screen, enveloping viewers with the feeling of being in the cockpit, soaring above the clouds in a P-51C Mustang, the signature aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen.
RISE ABOVE: America’s Tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, is made possible through the support of F&M Bank.
Visit online at www.nctrans.org for more information on these exhibits, train ride schedules, and more.