Dad tells the family that in downtown Birmingham there are "Coloreds Only" bathrooms.
Momma and Dad are having a discussion on the relative benefits of living in Flint, Michigan vs. Birmingham, Alabama. It is bitterly cold in Flint, and Momma, who comes from the South, is lamenting, in a teasing way, that she ever allowed herself to marry Dad and be relocated to the "far north in Flint, Mitch-again". She says that in Birmingham, not only is the weather better, but the life is slower and the people are friendlier as well. Dad counters with the observation that in Birmingham, there are "Coloreds Only" bathrooms downtown".
In 1963, when the story takes place, the Civil Rights movement was just getting started. Although Negroes were making progress in obtaining equal rights in the northern states, in the deep South, segregation and racial hatred was rampant. The Watson children, having grown up in Flint, were oblivious to the challenges and hardships still endured by the Negroes in the South, but Momma and Dad know them only too well. It is for this reason that Momma and Dad are so concerned that Byron get serious about his life, and it is also why they have to plan their trip to Birmingham so carefully. They know that in many places along their way, blacks cannot use the same facilities as whites, and that resentment and hatred of blacks is rampant (Chapter 1).