Historic African American-owned Safe Bus Company on exhibit

Release date: 2/4/2008


MONDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2008                     
CONTACT:  Natalie Alford
                  Information & Communication Specialist

SPENCER, N.C. – On Friday, Feb. 8, the North Carolina Transportation Museum will open a temporary exhibit that tells a story of segregation and entrepreneurial spirit in North Carolina. Artifacts tracing the history of Safe Bus Company, the only African American-owned city bus company in the nation that ran a fixed route for the general public, will be on exhibit at the museum through February 2009.

Safe Bus Company, which operated in Winston-Salem from 1926 to 1972, was formed to provide African American workers in East Winston-Salem with transportation to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company plants. At that time, electric trolleys and other forms of public transportation did not operate near the eastern part of town where most African Americans lived. Over the next 40 years, Safe Bus Company’s riders and profits increased markedly, but eventually it was bought by the Winston Salem Transit Authority (WSTA) in an effort to expand integrated bus service.

The company’s name stems from a promise made to Mayor Thomas Barber in 1926 to operate a safe and organized bus system, as the company transitioned from individually owned jitneys to a fleet of 35 city buses.

“We are excited about telling the Safe Bus Company story,” says Museum Historian Walter Turner. “The company’s ability to organize and finance a city bus system that lasted more than four decades is extraordinary.”

To celebrate the history of this inspiring group of African Americans, the museum will exhibit historic photographs, bus tokens, a bus driver’s uniform and employee handbook and other items belonging to employees of the Safe Bus Company. In addition, the museum will host a media event at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 15 to showcase the company’s 1969 GMC bus that the WSTA intends to restore and use as a rolling museum. Clark Campbell, veteran Safe Bus Company driver and namesake of downtown Winston Salem’s Clark Campbell Transportation Center, will also attend the event.

“We should always be looking for opportunities to expose our children to African American history,” said Art Barnes, WSTA General Manager. “The Piedmont region is steeped in this rich history and we encourage everyone to join us on February 15 at the Transportation Museum to learn more.”

For more information about the Winston-Salem Transit Authority, log on to www.wstransit.com.
This program reflects the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources 2008 theme “Telling Our Stories,” a yearlong celebration that showcases the story of North Carolina’s rich arts, heritage, and cultural life. Visit www.ncculture.org for more information.

For more information about the N.C. Transportation Museum, call 704-636-2889, toll-free at 1-877-NCTM-FUN, or visit www.nctrans.org.
The N.C. Transportation Museum, located in historic Spencer Shops, the former Southern Railway repair facility for steam locomotives, is part of the Division of State Historic Sites, Department of Cultural Resources.
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Division of State Historic Sites, N.C. Department of Cultural Resources