History September 03, 2018 at 04:00 pm

Meet the turban wearing African Americans who used the Indian symbol to escape segregation

Farida Dawkins | Contributor

Farida Dawkins September 03, 2018 at 04:00 pm

September 03, 2018 at 04:00 pm | History

Newspaper photo of the Rev. Jesse Routté after his “turban trick” in Alabama…Associated Press

The Rev. Jesse W. Routté

The Reverend Jesse W. Routté was the pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Jamaica, Queens, New York.

Routté wore a turban in what was called the “turban trick.”

He traveled to Alabama in 1947 in not only a turban but he also adorned robes and adopted an accent.

His was a political statement, as he wasn’t content with the treatment he received while visiting family members in Alabam in  1943.

Routté said of his experience, “I was Jim Crowed here, Jim Crowed there, Jim Crowed all over the place,” “and I didn’t like being Jim Crowed.”

National Public Radio stated an incident in which Routté boarded a train to Alabama. He entered a car where two white men were seated.

One of them stated, “Well, what have we got here?” to which Routté replied in his best Swedish accent (he had been the only black student at a Swedish Lutheran college in Illinois), “We have here an apostle of goodwill and love” — leaving them gaping.”

In another instance, Routté inquired at a fancy restaurant, “what would happen if a Negro gentleman comes in here and sits down to eat.” The reply was, “No negro would dare to come in here to eat.”

Routté recalled how he, “stroked my chin and ordered my dessert.”

Routté is now 78 years old.


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