The only thing Ulysses Moore could do was watch as his brand new bus was destroyed. Moore, a recently retired SEPTA worker, had been driving the 39 bus when nine white teenagers, equipped with baseball bats and hockey sticks, smashed the windows out of the bus after seeing a group of black kids board.
“I had the door closed so they couldn’t get in and they just tore the windows out,” said Moore. “Around the corner was the fire station – and we didn’t have telephones in the bus during that time – so I had to go to phone booth and call the police.”
For 76-year-old Moore, this was the only race driven crime he witnessed during the 30 years he worked for SEPTA. However, throughout his life the issue of race did pose as a more personal obstacle for Moore.
Moore was born in 1935, in a town called Goldsboro, North Carolina. Since he was a child, Moore dreamed of one day becoming a bus driver. However, due to the harsh Jim Crow laws of the South, Moore had little opportunity to fulfill his dream.
At 19 years old, Moore left his hometown and boarded a train to Philadelphia. Moore was not the only African-American during that time to make the journey from the South to the North. Between 1910 and 1970 over 7 million African-Americans relocated to the North so that they could escape the Jim Crow mentality of the South and better their conditions. This extreme exodus is commonly referred to as the Great Migration. By the time the migration ended in 1970, the social, cultural, political and economical condition of America had been greatly transformed.
Once in Philadelphia Moore lived with his brother, who had made the same journey years before. Since his arrival Moore has never been fired or out of work.
Just one day after moving to Philadelphia, Moore received a position as a sheet metal worker, where he worked for 15 years. He then later attended the Spring Garden Institute and received a job as a machinist. It wasn’t until Mr. Moore was 34 years old that a friend of his suggested he apply to SEPTA.
For 15 years, Moore drove over 8 different bus routes throughout the Philadelphia area. Despite having to wake up every morning at 4:30 for his 5:00 A.M. shift, Moore couldn’t have felt prouder that he was finally able to make his dream a reality. (Click Here for slide show on Moore’s life as SEPTA Bus Driver)
“I had always wanted to be a bus driver and I loved it. It wasn’t no headache to me at all,” said Moore. “I’ve never been late, never been suspended, never got no warning about nothing. 30 years with a clean record.”
Although Moore believes his life in Philadelphia was pleasant, he admits he has seen a change in the values of the younger generations. When his son was only 14 years old, Moore found out he was in a gang.
“They called him T-Bird and written on a wall around the corner of my house I saw the name T-Bird. So, that’s how I found out,” said Moore. “First this I did was I made him go down there and wash that off the wall.”
Moore also notices a dramatic difference in the education system today and how generations today fail to recognize the importance and the value in receiving proper schooling.
“It’s all together different. There was no violence like there is now. When I went to school everyone was interested in trying to learning something. Kids now go there for like a play thing,” said Moore.
For many people today, the Great Migration may seem like a minor period in American History. However, Moore’s story along with those like him, is proof that the migration was a period in which people strived to better not only their own condition but the condition of the United States as a whole.
Exploring the Life of Ulysses Moore: