* Code added to make Google search more likely. Mississippi Civil Rights--One Man, One Story: A Photo of Change

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Photo of Change

Photo: What a stir the above photo would have caused in the late 50's or early 60's. Think about all the things that would be "wrong" with this photo back in that era: Start with the handshake between a white woman and a black man in the middle of a very public celebration. The fact that the women is the President of Millsaps College would have been very unusual if not totally unthinkable. The fact that the black man is the father of a student at Millsaps College would have created an uproar that might threaten the existence of the school. The idea that a young black woman, even if she was allowed at Millsaps as a student, would be named Homecoming Queen over a group of white students was just an impossibility.

Thought: While the 1960's brought about the dramatic opposition between those who favored equality for all and those who wanted the status quo to continue, there was also opposition within the side that was pushing for Civil Rights. Without a doubt, some thought my father and those like him were not pushing hard enough and fast enough, and I know my father believed that some were pushing for too much change too soon, and the resulting wall of resentment would hinder the movement in the long run. I'm not sure if there was a right or wrong approach in this discussion, and probably both sides were needed to balance the other.

Things get really complicated when I get into the area of Headstart. At the moment I'm reading bits and pieces of "The Devil Has Slippery Shoes" by Polly Greenberg. It tells a fascinating account of just how these factions in the Civil Rights movement were competing for control. I only know about the book because I search on "Polly Greenberg" after seeing her name in a mysterious document that seems to be the minutes from a meeting. In it, Charles Evers warns the group about people like my father who are only involved in a program like Headstart because "all they really want is the money they can get out of the program". In that statement Charles Evers specifically mentions Colonel Davis, Mr. Ezell, and Mr. Huhn. The minutes further indicate that Charles Evers had wired OEO in Atlanta requesting that they stop all funding for the Jackson Headstart program, the program my father help to start at the Bethlehem Center.

While Polly Greenberg sounds like she was far, far to the left of my father, this letter also recommends that she be fired, and in the foreword of her book, Polly writes a direct note to "Charles". It's interesting stuff, but I'm afraid that I have to just leave you with that tease of posts to come in the near future. The above photo is one of about 3,000 I took in a 48 hour period at Millsaps this weekend and I am somewhat exhausted and facing a mountain of work to process the photos. Therefore, the blog may suffer in quality some this week as I stretch myself thinner than Twiggy on a diet, but I will get a post of some sort here every day and hopefully get back to more substantial stuff next week.

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