The Safe Bus Company operated in the city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina from 1926 to 1972. The company was originally formed to provide transportation to the city’s underserved black neighborhoods.
In the 1920s, segregation reached into nearly every aspect of daily life. The city of Winston-Salem’s trolley service, Southern Public Utilities Company, did not operate in largely black neighborhoods, leaving residents to a network of some 35 jitney operators for transportation to the city’s tobacco factories for work.
Jitneys were independently run and competed with each other. Their timetables were not always set, and it was a scattered system.
Safe Bus was formed when 21 one of those jitney operators came together to form their own transportation company for the city’s black residents. According to the Forsyth County Historic Commission, the name “Safe Bus” was taken from a promise made to Winston Salem mayor Thomas Barber to operate a safe and organized bus system. Harvey F. Morgan, Safe Bus Company’s first president, oversaw the transition from those original 21 jitneys to a fleet of 35 city buses.
Safe Bus was an immediate success and continued to grow to more than 80 drivers carrying some 8,000 passengers each day. When Winston-Salem’s contracted bus carrier departed the city in 1968, the Safe Bus Company was tapped to provide transportation to all residents, making it the largest African-American-owned and operated transportation business in the world.
In 1972, the Winston-Salem Transit Authority purchased the assets of the Safe Bus Company and it became a part of the city-run department.
Cassandra Greene Miller, daughter of Safe Bus President Buster Greene, was quoted in Our State Magazine, saying, “Many people say that segregation gave birth to Safe Bus and integration ended it.”