Migrating From Big Bad Jim Crow
The Story Of Nathaniel Comick
“Jim Crow had unintended benefits. It forced blacks to build and rely on their own economic, educational and social systems” Jason Whitlock
During this pandemic my son had the opportunity to join Upward Bound . This program takes local teens on field trips all over the states to culture them on the outside world while prepping them for college . Due to the pandemic everything has changed into virtual field trips. This week’s online field trip was to The National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington, D.C. Teens got a first look into the museum’s collectives of African American history.
Something specific that caught my attention was the book of Migration Stories. The book of Migration Stories were various testimonials of African Americans from all over detailing the stories of how they left the Jim Crow South to live better lives, create businesses and receive all the equality that every individual deserves in this life.
As we looked on, it made me remember the conversation I had with the elders of our family who are from Wichita Kansas and how they migrated from Kansas during the Jim Crow Era to California. Many families left various parts of the south to escape the Jim Crow laws and seek a better way of life . Jim Crow Laws were precise acts of separation and isolation against Black individuals, particularly as polished in the American South from the finish of Reconstruction to the mid-twentieth century.
My grandfather Nathaniel Comick was born June 2, 1914, he grew up during a time when southern states and many northern cities had Jim Crow laws that discriminated against black people. Jim Crow laws victimized individuals of color and kept them from the same type of equality of life as whites. A native of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, when he became of age he married his wife Roberta Burns in Wichita Kansas. He settled there with his wife to raise a family but Jim Crow was running loose in Kansas especially within the work field.
Nathaniel worked diligently to care for his family of 8 working for an assessment aircraft company in Kansas when a white co-worker began to taunt him, by throwing dead rats on him and attacking him. Nathaniel defended himself against a white man and was escorted off the company premises. News traveled fast that a black man stood up against a white and soon a Klan mob was in search of Nathaniel Comick. The mob went from neighborhood to neighborhood searching for Nathaniel .
Family members hid him in underneath the house in a downstairs seller. The Klan showed up looking for Nathaniel and even told the family their intention to torture, lynch and throw Nathaniel’s body in the river once they caught him. Nathaniel hid out for hours and when safe he and his family packed up what little they could carry and fled Kansas by train.
Numerous individuals have migration stories of how they got away and defeated Jim Crow by moving, despite the fact that Jim Crow was still present in California as well .The hardship of Leaving everything you hold behind for the sake of your family is an act of courage. Nathaniel purchased his first home in California and worked in construction to provide a life for his family. He took on a second occupation of picking cotton to make extra money for his family, his wife Roberta worked as a CNA at the local convalescent home to care for the sick.
Many families like Nathaniel had to make a choice in order to survive, leaving all their belongings in the dead of night but sometimes even to live is an extreme act of courage. I am proud of my grandfather Nathaniel Comick a man whom I never had the pleasure of meeting but I see his strengthen and his spirit within the life of his children. If we do not tell these stories then the next generation will never value the reason by which they came to live. We must encourage these stories to be brought into light so that history does not repeat itself and we learn to stand in the face of racial discrimination and the big bad Jim Crow that is trying to resurface within our laws, communities and society.
Migration changed so many lives thank you Nathaniel I would not have been here it was not for you.