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Crystal Roby Dr. Giesen History of Now 26 November 2012

Mississippi Goddam: The Dark Past of Mississippi

"This is Mississippi, the middle of the iceberg." -- Bob Moses "People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them." James Baldwin

"American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it." -James Baldwin

Mississippi is really just a symbol, its a microcosm for America, and its the emotional heart and soul of America on the issue of race. William Doyle

I first learned to hate during the fall of 1955.(In reference to the murder of Emmett Till) Anne Moody

Mississippi also known as the Magnolia State throughout its history has had moments that have captured the nation, even the worlds attention. In the state of Mississippi, a dark cloud hovers over its past, a past filled with brutal violence and death. History has not looked kindly on the state of Mississippi, and rightly so. For many years Mississippi had a history of murders and violence towards its black citizens, an image it still can shake, even in the year 2012. I was born and raised in Mississippi, however I didnt learn of its history during the 1950s and 1960s, until I was eight years old, I just couldnt understand why people would use violence against other

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people just because of the color of their skin. Thats the amazing thing about kids; their view of the world is so innocence at times. During the Civil Rights Movement, Mississippi has been in the epicenter of unsolved deaths, rapes, and violence against black citizens and those who choose to help them. In the Constitution of the United States written by our forefathers stated that all men are created equal and are given rights by God and should be protected by the government, but when the forefathers had written the document, they werent talking about me or people who have the same skin color as me. This country was founded on the principal of freedom, which people have to right to live the way they see fit. Its a shame that whenever someone ask me where Im, sometimes I pause for a second not really wanting to reveal that Im Mississippi. I know its silly, but sometimes I dont like to associate myself with a state known for brutal killings of some its citizens and sometimes visitors who came to help the blacks in the state to register to vote, then there are times where I feel like theres no other place in the world I rather be than in Mississippi. Whether I like it or not Mississippi is my home. Mississippi has come a long way from its Jim Crow laws days. Just last a white teen by the name of Deryl Dedmon 18 year old from Brandon, MS and some of his friends went to Jackson to harass or beat up black residents in the city. Dedmon and his friends pulled off Interstate 55 to Ellis Ave to Metro Inn, a motel near I-55, where they saw an intoxicated 49 year old James Craig Anderson who was standing outside of the motel, Dedmon and friends started to burglarize and beat Anderson, after the beating Dedmon got back into his truck and ran over Anderson who would later die of the injuries he received. Dedmon was charged with first-degree murder, on March 21, 2012 Dedmon pleaded guilty so he could escape the death penalty ; Judge Jeff Weill sentenced Dedmon to a double life sentence that would run back to back. Judge Weill was quoted as saying, Dedmons crime had put a great strain on the state of Mississippi, a strain that would take years to fade. So

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even today in the year of 2012, Mississippi still has the stigma of racial segregation were still trying to move passed it, Mississippi native and filmmaker Wright Thompson asked What is the cost of knowing our past; and whats the cost of not. There are questions Mississippians wont ask, because they are not prepared to hear the answer. We have to know our past, no matter how painful it is, we as Mississippians we should never forget. They were two events that shaped Americas and the world view of Mississippi, the good and the bad. Mississippians are burden with the past of their place of birth. For years Mississippi is looked upon as evil, for the wrongs committed by whites towards blacks, just because of the color of the skin.

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One of those dark moments would shed a light on the Jim Crow laws worked in Mississippi; the murder of a young boy would tear Mississippi apart. In early August 1955, Emmett's great-uncle, Moses "Preacher" Wright, traveled to Chicago from Mississippi and asked Emmett's mother, Mamie Till Mobley, if her son could spend the summer with his family. Wright also invited two of Emmett's Chicago cousins to come on the trip. Mamie agreed to let Emmett go but worried about how he would behave in the South. Although Chicago was racially segregated, its racism was not of the Jim Crow stripe. Emmett and his cousins arrived in Money, a hamlet in the Mississippi Delta with only 55 residents on Sunday, Aug. 21, 1955. Three days later, on a Wednesday evening, Emmett and his cousins were in church listening to Moses Wright preach. Restless and bored, the boys made an early exit from the church, took Wright's car, and drove to Bryant's Grocery & Meat Market.(Noe)1 Till showing his cousin and some local boys pictures of his white friends back home was bragging to his cousin about his white girlfriend he had back home in Chicago, his cousins didnt believe him and ask him to prove it,

Noe, Denise, Cold Case: The Murder of Emmett Till Crime Magazine 27 November 2006 updated 12 March 2007. Accessed on November 4 2012 from, http://crimemagazine.com/cold-case-murder-emmett-till

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so Emmett went into a nearby store own by Carolyn Bryant and her husband Roy to buy some candy, before leaving the store some say the Emmett had wolf-whistled at Carolyn. Some witness would later say that Emmett had been flirting with Carolyn, there other accounts were Till had grabbed Carolyn, she was so shaken up about incident with Till that Carolyn went outside to her car to get her hand gun, some of the local boys had seen and warned Till and his cousin Curtis. When the boys arrived back home, they didnt tell their uncle Moses Wright about the incident in fear they would get into trouble. It was said that Carolyn Bryant hadnt told her husband about the incident that happened at the store. The bystanders who had claimed to have witness the incident had told Roy about it. Some days later Roy Bryant and his brother J.W. Milam drove out to Moses Wright house, where they loaded up Till in their truck and drove off with him. They took the boy to a barn where they beat him and shot in the head, the men then deposed of Tills body by throwing him in the Tallahatchie River. There were rumors that Tills family were hiding him, or he had went back to Chicago. The NACCP had assign field secretary Medgar Evers to investigate the case, to make sure he wasnt spotted Evers disguise himself so he could gather information on the case. Evers would send his findings to the NACCP headquarters in New York where it would later be published. Till was missing for three days before his unrealizable body was found by two boys who were playing along the Tallahatchie River. Many Mississippians wanted to detach themselves from the Till murder case, some even had blamed the murder on how Till wasnt aware of the how things stand in the South, and how it eventually had led to his death. Mississippi officials wanted to bury Till quickly, so the media attention would die down. When Tills mother was told of his death, Mrs. Mamie Till Bradley immediately wanted her sons body to be transported to Chicago to be buried, eventually Tills body was returned to Chicago, his body was taken to A.A Rayner Funeral Home, where Mrs.

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Mame Till averred that she wanted to have open casket at the funeral, because she wanted the world to see want Mississippi had done to her son. The funeral was held at Roberts Temple Church of Christ, thousands attended the funeral, where photographers took pictures of Tills disfigured body, the pictures would later be published in The Chicago Defender and Jet magazine. Till was laid to rest at Burr Oak that is located Alsip, that is a suburb of Chicago. The pictures sparked outrage and the case began getting nationwide press. The pressure began to fall onto the prosecutor Gerald Chatham who was assign to the case. Reporters from all over the country -- and even from abroad -- converged upon the little courthouse in Sumner, Miss., to witness the trial. The prosecution mounted an excellent case and went after the defendants with surprising vigor; the judge was eminently fair, refusing to allow race to become an issue in the proceedings, at least overtly. Nevertheless, the jury, 12 white men, acquitted the defendants after deliberating for just 67 minutes -- and only that long, one of them said afterward, because they stopped to have a soda pop in order to stretch things out and ''make it look good.(Rubin)2 Many black Mississippians felt that there was no way an all-white jury was going to convict Bryant and Milam of murder as least not in Mississippi. Just as Mississippians feared, Bryant and Milam were found not guilty of the murder of Emmett Till, to add insult to injury in 1956, Bryant and Milam did a paid interview with Look magazine where admitting to killing Emmett Till, they also felt that didnt do anything wrong, because of double jeopardy, Bryant and Milam could not be charged for the murder, even when they confessed to it. The interview outraged whites and black Mississippians who in turn stopped shopping at Bryant Grocery, therefore putting them out of business. Bryant would later move to Texas. In a way financially hurting Bryants business was the only justice that could be taken towards Bryant and Milam. Both Bryant and Milam

Rubin, Richard, The Ghosts of Emmett Till, The New Times 31 July 2005. Accessed on November 5 2012, from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/31/magazine/31TILL.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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would later die of cancer, Milam in 1980 and Bryant in 1994. Tills murder will always been a wound on Mississippi that will never fully heal. The Till case continued to send reverberations through society as years passed and the civil rights movement gained momentum. However, there was a persistent, gnawing sense of frustration on the part of Mamie Till-Mobley and others because justice had been thwarted.(Noe) 3

Noe, Denise, Cold Case: The Murder of Emmett Till Crime Magazine 27 November 2006 updated 12 March 2007. Accessed on November 4 2012 from, http://crimemagazine.com/cold-case-murder-emmett-till

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The case brought race relations, already simmering after the Brown v. Board of Education decision in May of the previous year, to a boil. The initial reaction was that even in Mississippi you don't get to do this--this isn't 1935, you can't just go around killing black kids because they whistle at women," says historian Michael Klarman, author of From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality . Till's mother demanded an open casket at his funeral so the world could see what had been done to her son. Fifty thousand people came to view his battered body. Yet for almost 50 years, the Justice Department steered clear of Till's case. Because Bryant and Milam didn't cross state lines, there was technically no federal jurisdiction, and J. Edgar Hoover's FBI was rarely proactive in civil rights cases. Besides, Milam and Bryant had admitted killing Till. Case closed.(Ewers)4 The Justice Department opened the Till investigation chiefly because of the perseverance (until her
4

Ewers, Justin, In pursuit of justice U.S. News 16 May 2004. Accessed on November 4 2012, from http://www.usnews.com/usnews/culture/articles/040524/24emmett.htm

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death in 2003) of Till-Mobley, and the attention drawn to the case by filmmaker Keith Beauchamp's 2004 documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till. The film delved into rumors that as many as 10 people, black and white, were involved in the crime. Yet the story of Till's murder has never really been untoldkey elements were revealed 49 years ago by William Bradford Huie, a maverick Alabama journalist, in an article in Look magazine. Huie talked to Roy Bryant, the husband of the woman Till offended, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, soon after they'd been acquitted of the murder by an all-white jury. Their lawyer, J.J. Breland, accepted this offer from Huie: $3,000 for his clients and $1,000 to Breland's firm in exchange for the story of Till's kidnapping, beating, and murder. It's easy to understand why Bryant and Milam talked: They were immune from further prosecution for murder, and they needed the money.(Sparkman)5

Sparkman, Randy, The Murder of Emmett Till: The 49-year-old story of the crime and how it came to be told, Slate Magazine 21 June 2005. Accessed on November 2, 2012, from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2005/06/the_murder_of_emmett_till.html

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Another moment of Mississippis dark history was the brutal killing of three civil rights activists in the summer of 1964, the murder shocked America, and the crime again divided Mississippians, and also showed that not all white Mississippians were for segregation and using violence against blacks. In the summer of 1964, about almost nine years after the Emmett Till murder, three civil right workers were in Neshoba Country investigating a church burning down. Their names were James Chaney, a Mississippi native, Andrew Goodman who was from New York and Michael Schwerner who was also from New York; they all were member of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality). Many whites didnt like that members of CORE were coming to their state trying to interfere with their way if life, they felt that their way of life was being attacked, and it was up to them to fight to preserve it for future generations. CORE had set up operations in Mississippi to help register black residents. Churches were often used to as headquarters or meeting places to teach the residents how to read in order to register to vote. On June 21 Deputy Cecil Price arrested the three men; they were booked into jail and later released, after being released from custody, the three men disappeared. Suspicion fell on Deputy Price who was the last person to see the men alive. The story of William McAtee is very unique because, one of worst moment in Mississippis history was seen through his eyes, and you see how he chooses to react to the situation, and because of that he was not a spectator like most Mississippians who didnt want to get involve with civil rights. In 1964 young pastor William McAtee joined Columbia Presbyterian Church, days later three civil rights activists bodies would be found in a dam in Neshoba country. Columbia had a solid professional, business, and civic leadership.(McAtee) In May 1964, exactly ten years after Brown, Bill McAtee, a young and largely untested minister, preached his first sermon in the Presbyterian Church in the small city of Columbia,

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deep in the deep Piney Woods of South Mississippi. Normally this would not have been regarded event in his ministerial career, but it occurred at the beginning of what soon came to be known as the long hot summer of 1964. (McAtee)6 On a steamy Sunday night in June the three civil right workers would be brutally murdered on a rural road outside of the community of Philadelphia after the attempted to help some residents. The murder brought the righteous wrath of the nation down on the state of Mississippi.(McAtee)7 One of McAtees patrons was Columbia mayor Earl Buddy McLean who wanted his town to remain violent free, while other places of Mississippi were engulfed with chaos and violence. McAtee and other ministers joined together to make sure violence would not break out in the town. The state now faced a major crisis as many other students activists from around the country flooded into a number of its communities, including Columbia, to try to bring an end to segregation and to register black citizens to vote.(McAtee)8 McAtee and the other ministers wanted to try to assist Mayor McLean in making sure that Columbia would remain violent free, during the so-called invasion of Mississippi by the radical northerners. The young pastor and other ministers believed that all Gods children had the right to all facilities. In Mississippi today, the state and its citizens are still struggling with the stigma placed on the state and its white citizens for wrongs committed towards during the Jim Crow era. Just like a phoenix, Mississippi keeps rising from the ashes of the past. Mississippi is constantly evolving because of how more people of different ethnic or racial backgrounds are moving into the state, and the newer generations are rejecting the old ways of the South and are embracing
6

McAtee, William, Transformed: A White Mississippi Pastor's Journey into Civil Rights and Beyond, Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2011,x 7 McAtee, William, Transformed: A White Mississippi Pastor's Journey into Civil Rights and Beyond, Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2011, 8 McAtee, William, Transformed: A White Mississippi Pastor's Journey into Civil Rights and Beyond, Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2011,

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diversity, and because of this Mississippis past will hopefully be a distance memory that people hardly remember.