Time and place are important in Recitatif because they give the groundwork for exploring the beginnings of a tumultuous time in racial relations in recent American history. School busing was ordered by the Supreme Court in 1969 and begun in 1973. At first, both white students and black students were bussed to other schools in an effort to equalize educational opportunities for all students. The rational was that since, prior to busing, the schools in white neighborhoods were better than those in black neighborhoods, an equal balance of white and black students would equalize the quality of school and education in all neighborhoods giving all children the same education, after busing.
This is the era in which the adult Twyla and Roberta meet. They grow up through the twenty some preceding years. During those years some of the most dramatic events in racial civil rights history had taken place, including the opening in September 1957 of the first white high school to black students in Montgomery, AL, during President Kennedy's term in office. The time and place provide historic allusions to events that explain and underscore otherwise random behavior like the incident with the lunch lady in the orchard and the encounter at the dinner.