Dialed In: Black couple shares perspective on decades of change

KENNEWICK, WA - February is Black History Month. The Tri-Cities used to be segregated; black people could only live in east Pasco, not Richland or Kennewick. That is, until the Slaughters moved in. 

John and Mary Slaughter have lived much of their lives together in Kennewick and their first home there was a bit of a controversy.

"When [John] took the house, it was a teacher at Kennewick who was mad at the system and he was going to rent his house to a black couple," said Mary. So the Slaughters did move in and they made fast friends.

"The lady next door, a very nice lady, came over and the lady straight across from us," said Mary.

However, even with friendly neighbors, a social stigma remained.

"When we took our kids to school, the first words that came out of a little boys mouth... 'here come the n words' but john said don't you dare. Because I was going to say something and I thought, I'm glad he stopped me because he was just a child and that child got that from his parents," said Mary.

John, an engineer, worked for the forest service for many years.

"I wanted to go for greener pastures, you might say. So I applied to work at the Atomic Energy Commission at Hanford," said John.

The couple came here by way of Seattle, Naches and originally Chattanooga, Tennessee where these young sweethearts were already rallying change.

"We were riding the bus together. Well when the white people got on the bus, they were asking me to go behind. I told them I am not going to do that. I didn't go and this was before Parks," said John.

The Slaughters are in their 80s now and have a positive outlook on all the change they have seen over the years.

"Perspective is an important thing. This is why so many different ideas are in this country. Because many have a different perspective than I do. I remember how I was treated. I was treated to the point that I got tired of it and I was ready to die to live in this country," said John.

John served in the military after getting drafted right out of high school. He and Mary went on to have four children. The couple still lives in Kennewick and still loves its people. They do believe there will always be race issues in America, on both sides, but John says it is all a matter of perspective.

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