* Code added to make Google search more likely. Mississippi Civil Rights--One Man, One Story: Trying to Find the Pieces to the Puzzle

Monday, October 22, 2007

Trying to Find the Pieces to the Puzzle

Imagine starting work on a jigsaw puzzle with just some pieces in a ziplock bag. The original box is long gone, so you'll have to work off a vague remembrance of the actual photo. Very few of the pieces ever made it to the ziplock bag, so you'll have to keep your eyes opened throughout the day, searching for pieces that have become scattered here and there. That's how I feel at the moment. It's amazing just how little I actually have. In this era before photocopies, you either had the original letter or a carbon copy for your records. I've found very few of these things that my father either sent or received.

If you have some of the scattered pieces, please let me know and maybe get me a copy. The object here is to complete a picture, not for one person with a fading memory to just give his version of the story. There's a comment option at the end of each post and my email address (frankezelle@yahoo.com) is listed in the intro at the top of the blog. Also, please feel free to leave a comment to anything I write. The comment section is set up so anyone can leave a comment and you can sign as much or as little of your name as you'd like.

Some of the greatest anger towards my father came from his activity with the Jackson Chamber of Commerce and a statement put out by the Chamber. I always thought my dad was President of the Chamber in the summer of 1964, but he was the President-elect that year. I always thought the Chamber statement came out in 1964 and now I'm not so sure. It shows you just how little I have to work with at the moment. In the few file folders I have, there are often newspaper clippings that were saved. The surrounding stories are usually more interesting than the stories about my dad and they give an idea of just what it was like in the 1960's. If you don't understand what it was like in the 1960's, then you won't understand how the Chamber statement, which would be considered racist today, caused such an outrage with the KKK. I'll post the statement and the KKK newsletter later this week.

In the files there is a page torn from the October 28, 1961 "State Times" newspaper, basically just 46 years ago. I'm sure it was saved because of the story, "Nine New Directors Are Elected By City Chamber", with my dad being one of the nine. I found the adjoining story more interesting and telling. This is what was written under, "Yale Fraternity Takes In Negro Track Star":

"NEW HAVEN, Conn. (UPI)--A Negro student from Trinidad was initiated into the Yale chaper of a national fraternity today over the objection of University of Virginia Members who flew here to protest.

The reverse twist of Southern students coming North to try to keep the Negro out of the otherwise all white Delta Psi fraternity was conducted in utmost secrecy without any banners or picketing.

But the five-man group which flew here from Charlottesville, Va., late Thursday in a twin-engined chartered plane obviously got a flat rejection of their opposition to the Yale chapter taking in Wendell A. Mottley, a sophomore track star.

The Delta Psi fraternity--also known as St. Anthony Hall--announced the 25 pledges including Mottley had undergone the final initiation rites and were now full members.

The Southern students were closeted with the Yale members for almost four hours. They declined to comment on what had transpired, but it was expected they would fly back today and that the Virginia chapter must now decide whether it wants to stay in the national fraternity."

Note that the above story was written by a UPI reporter from New Haven. I would hate to see how the story would have been written by a local Jackson reporter. This was just 46 years ago and it involved a Virginia school, not one from the Deep South, but it shows you just how deep the feelings went in regards to opposing intergration. A black fraternity member at Yale would have no bearing on fraternity life for a student in Virginia, and yet this Virgina chapter went to great lengths to try and prevent the initiation and then they were considering leaving the national organization because it now had one black member. Some people might see this as ancient history, but keep in mind that when this happened Elvis was already a star and the Beatles were just about ready to invade America. I consider those things rather recent events in our American culture.

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