[Marxism] The Great Jackson Civil Rights Tour

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Fri Dec 10 17:07:27 MST 2004


Note by Hunter Bear:

This was just sent to me by my son, Pete [Mack], who is an editor of the
Lincoln Journal Star.  I believe it initially appeared in the Clarion Ledger
about three years ago [Following my posting of it, I recall a fine comment
at that time by David McReynolds and also several others.]  Since it has not
appeared on BWB, I am posting it here.  But I am also adding more
elaborative comment than I had with its earlier  appearance. [I am also
now posting it in a couple of other places where it may not have appeared.]

In late 1962 and in 1963, we wrecked via nonviolent boycott, the downtown
Jackson business district [centered in and around Capitol Street] and many
outlying stores as well.  Given that, I suppose we cannot blame the Chamber
and the Tourist Bureau from trying to capitalize on our Civil Rights
Movement.

Mrs Jane Schutt was one of a tiny, tiny number of Mississippi Anglos who
could be described as moderate to liberal.  She headed a very small
interracial prayer group -- modeled closely after a comparable effort in
Union of South Africa.  And, along with others such as Prof Jim Silver at
Ole Miss [author of the eventual Mississippi: The Closed Society], Fr.
Duncan Gray [later Bishop] of the Episcopal Church, Dr AD Beittel of
Tougaloo, was a leader in the also very small Mississippi Council on Human
Relations.  All of this took just plain raw courage.

The CL article contains the classic photo of our Woolworth Sit-In.  It does
not show, although it mentions Memphis Norman [a Tougloo student] who at the
very beginning of things was knocked off his stool and savagely kicked by a
goon, and was then -- while unconscious -- arrested! [Joan on our BWB list
sometimes sees Memphis in DC] Others of us then immediately joined the
sit-in which went on for three hours and at least two hundred thugs.
Condiments -- salt, pepper, sugar, mustard etc -- were dumped on us -- and I
was burned with cigarettes, cut with a broken sugar container, battered with
fists and brass knuckles.  On the other hand, I should add that I do have a
thick skull, a thick hide, and a high pain threshold.  [I learned those
things in grade school and high school -- and well beyond.]

The Mississippi Free Press was a brave and successful effort -- and to lots
of people go the credit.  There were many writers from our general
community: in addition to Medgar and me [named in the CL article], people
like Dr Aaron Henry -- president of state NAACP; Rev Tom Johnson -- a
somewhat fundamentalist missionary preacher from the North who later became,
in Michigan, an Episcopal clergyman; the maverick white lawyer, Bill Higgs;
Colia Liddell, a Tougaloo student and NAACP Youth leader; SNCC and CORE
correspondents; and numerous others.  It was deemed illegal to sell or give
this good quality and genuinely underground paper away [$50.00 fine].  A
major figure in our Free Press life was Mrs Hazel Brannon Smith, of
Lexington, Mississippi, up in Holmes County.  She was one of a tiny, tiny,
tiny number of moderate white Mississippi newspaper people -- always under
attack by the Citizens Council.  She printed our paper and, when she could
not do that safely, arranged to have it printed in Memphis and smuggled
across the border into the "Magnolia Jungle."  When the birth of my first
baby took place [Maria, a key Movement Mascot], it was duly reported in the
Free Press.  Eldri and I recall when Mrs Smith's newspaper branch office in
Jackson -- not far from Tougaloo -- was blown up.

The State Fairgrounds/Concentration Camp was a horrible place.  I was there
twice before being taken into a formal Jackson jail cell.  Police spit and
urinated in drinking water containers and, throwing food on the ground, told
captives, "Eat, dogs, eat."  By the time the Fairgrounds became the
Concentration Camp as our mass marches became ever larger and more
intensive, the daily temps were going to 102.

Sam Bailey was a damn good friend of myself and Medgar. [We were, in
addition to everything else, trying to talk up forming an integrated AMVETS
chapter at Jackson -- but Medgar was killed and the effort got lost in the
larger Movement interaction.]  I saw  Sam -- and quite a few others -- at
the big civil rights retrospective in late 1979, sponsored jointly by
Tougaloo and Millsaps colleges.  He was so appreciative of the fact that I
mention, in my book, the cold blooded murder of Corporal Roman Duckworth,
murdered at Taylorville by a local marshal because he [the Corporal] was in
the front portion of an interstate bus.  Corporal Duckworth, in the MPs, was
on his way home to Laurel where his wife was giving birth to their fifth
child.  The Army sent an integrated color guard to his funeral and our Free
Press gave all of this heavy coverage.

Our BWB list has about 52 members.  At least a dozen were involved in
Mississippi and other Southern and Border South civil rights activities.  In
addition, these and many others indeed are on the Tribute.  And everyone
listed on BWB and Tribute has been involved in all kinds of courageous and
demanding social activist causes.

Probably enough for now.   H


Dad --         12/10/04
Have you seen this? You're mentioned (of course).
4 decades of history still standing amid city's streets


By Gregg Mayer
Clarion-Ledger Staff Writer

A cross wrapped with kerosene-soaked rags burned in Jane Schutt's front yard
in December 1963.


      Fred Blackwell / Special to The Clarion-Ledger

      Like many other cities in the South during the 1960s, Jackson had its
own incidents of racial conflict over traditions, rules, and local laws.
What is now One Jackson Place Plaza is the former site of F.W. Woolworth
where students involved in a sit-in were confronted at the lunch counter on
May 28, 1963.


Back then, Schutt lived in a middle-class white neighborhood. She was
pro-integration, taking young white and black children to a Head Start
program. And she encouraged all races to pray together.

"I guess people didn't like that," said Schutt, who now lives in Florence.

But by Christmas, that same cross was decorated with ivy and put again in
front of her home, just behind a manger scene of Joseph, Mary and baby
Jesus.

"I wanted so desperately before Christmas to turn it into a sign of love,"
Schutt said. "When we put the floodlight on it, it threw the shadow of the
cross on the front of the house. From then on, we used it every year."

Since that time, Schutt's former home at 955 Pecan Blvd., has been
recognized as one of the significant sites from the civil rights era. The
house is one of 55 stops on the Civil Right's Movement Driving Tour in
Jackson.

"It's an introduction, somewhat, of what the community was like during the
'60s," said Alferdteen Harrison, director of the Jackson State University
Margaret Walker Alexander Research Center, which did research for the
three-year project. "It's the context out of which the civil rights movement
grew out of Mississippi."

With gold-and-blue signs, the tour marks historic sites like Medgar Evers'
home, where the civil rights leader was gunned down in his driveway while
carrying "Jim Crow Must Go" T-shirts.

It highlights once-violent locations like the green space off Capital Street
in downtown where a sit-in at the F.W. Woolworth Store in 1963 spurred hours
of beatings and abuse. It shows once horrifying places like the livestock
buildings at the state fairgrounds. In 1963, Mayor Allen Thompson converted
the buildings into hogwire-enclosed compounds for African Americans because
so many protesters were arrested that jail space ran out.

"People pass by that facility on a regular basis and not really know that,"
said Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr., the first African-American mayor of Jackson.

The tour, which cost about $75,000 to put together, is a drive through
nearly four decades of history. The tour will take most people to places
they've never been before in Mississippi's capital city.

"The civil rights movement is the most significant movement in American
history in the second half of the century," said Dernoral Davis, a history
professor at Jackson State who drafted a historical sketch used as a basis
to put the tour together. "It involved all persons from all strata of
American life.

"Jackson, in 1962, 1963, became very much the place the nation watched."

With a 54-page brochure, featuring pictures and short paragraphs about each
site, tour-goers can take about four hours and make the whole drive in a
day, or go on any one of the four sections at a time.

Bruce Payne took part in a city-sponsored test run of the Civil Rights
Movement Driving Tour on a bus about a year ago.

"It's great," said Payne, a news reporter covering civil rights activities
for the black-operated WOKJ in 1963. "I think it's something Jackson needs
to promote and develop.

"I know the places the bus stopped, those were the key points."

The starting point is Smith-Robertson Museum, which was Jackson's first
public school for African Americans. Part One of the tour drives through
downtown, including stops in the Farish Street Historic District, the
dilapidated King Edward Hotel and the green space for the Woolworth sit-in
site.

"It became one of the most documented sit-ins in the 1960s and one of the
last," said the Rev. Ed King, who was there then. "Frequently, I went to
police who were standing outside and seemed to be enjoying what was
happening inside and would not go into the store. The police allowed the
violence to go on.

"Everyone who came in there (after Tougaloo student Memphis Norman, one of
the first to sit at the lunch counter, was severely beaten) knew they could
be killed."

Mustard, catsup, pepper and water were poured onto those participating in
the sit-in. Eventually, the store closed and the protesters were taken to
jail.

The Woolworth sit-in attracted national interest in Jackson, and
precipitated other picketing and sit-ins at Capitol Street businesses.

Part Two of the tour includes stops at Jackson State University; the former
office of the Mississippi Free Press, a four-page civil rights newspaper
written by Evers and John Salter; the home of Samuel Bailey, who filed a
lawsuit challenging the city's segregated bus system and petitioned to
desegregate the schools; and Schutt's home. Part Three goes by Elmwood
Cemetery, where NAACP president Aaron Henry is buried, and by Evers' home.
Part Four highlights Tougaloo College.

"If you came to Jackson, one of the places you were likely to stop over was
at Tougaloo because of the reputation Tougaloo had as a bastion of civil
rights protests," Davis said. "Its students were extremely active."

Plans for the tour are to create an audio tape to accompany the driving tour
and offer narration. Officials also aretrying to link the tour with other
civil rights sites, such as the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Davis' text
may be turned into a booklet, Harrison said.

"Right now there is a boom in heritage tourism," said Dee Gardner,
communications coordinator for the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"Surveys show people are looking for meaningful travel experiences, they're
looking for a little bit of education and cultural opportunities.

"Certainly, that's something we have here in abundance."



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For a copy of the tour brochure, call the Convention and Visitors Bureau at
(601) 960-1891.




HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR]   Micmac /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]














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