Heather Gray

A Day in Mississippi

Every time I travel to Mississippi from Georgia I'm confronted with a flood of memories. Friends occasionally remind me that Mississippi is no different than any other state in the "deep" south and, on the whole, I know that's true. Yet for me, Mississippi invariably rises to the top as the epitome of racial injustice, intolerance, bigotry, economic exploitation and, in spite of all, contradictions. Perhaps this is because its history of oppression is so conspicuous. Mississippi folks concerned about oppression have always challenged it, however. They simply never give up.

After September 11, 2001, George Bush said he was going after terrorists. I thought, "Great, maybe, he'll go after some of the real terrorists of American citizens, like the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups in Mississippi and throughout the country." This was a pipe dream, I know.

Mississippi's bleak contemporary and historical record is legendary and graphically described in books and film. Witness, for example, the founding of the notorious White Citizens Council in 1954 by the Mississippi Delta white elite, partly to counter civil rights achievements such as the Supreme Court's Brown v. Topeka, Kansas Board of Education decision in 1954 to integrate public schools. As Martin Luther King said in his book Stride Toward Freedom:

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