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INQUIRY INTO THE MISSISSIPPI MIND
(Continued From Page 2) the legally discredited doctrine of interposition. He announced that he was placing the power of the state between the University of Mississippi and the Federal Courts to prevent the admission of James H. Meredith, a 29-year-old Negro. It is doubtful that Mr. Barnett, a shrewd damage-suit lawyer, thought interposition would work for him more than it had for Gov. Jimmy H. Davis of Louisiana in his efforts to block Negroes from the New Orleans public schools. Nevertheless, like demagogues before him, Governor Barnett ap parently felt compelled to stage a show of defiance while nego tiating a surrender under the table. If sucfc was his intention, he misjudged the mood of his people with fatal results. ' Given the Governor’s refusal t© preserve order and the Ken nedy Administration’s decision t© enforce desegregation initially with Federal deputy marshals . 1 il _ _* A. I— *«i At C raiiJCi mail v\ ini — of Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 on the Ole Miss campus and in the ad joining town of Oxford were in evitable. One might have thought that the death of two men and the incalculable damage to the state and nation would have had a sobering effect on segregation ists. Any such illusions were soon dispelled by declarations of the type made by a Jackson newspa per columnist: “Watch the peace-lovers come to the fore, grab a nigger-neck and start bellowing brotherly ' .love,” he wrote. “For us . . . we'll just go on being a bigot, a re actionary, a rebel and lick our wounds till the next fight staits and plan to win somehow. We are licked but not beaten!” Some Mississippians believe that the rest of the nation is on their side and that succor cannot be long in coming. “I found a lot of sympathy in the Midwest for our position, particularly in regard to our respect for states’ rights and the Tenth Amendment,’ said one returning missionary. What underlies this refusal of white Mississippians to face real ity? UndouDiemy, ine neruage ux slavery, the stark poverty and pro found isolation that Mississippi has known have played a part. Anoth er important factor has been the fear of the Negro felt by what until recently was a white minor ity. There is also bitter resentment against the North. This was first aroused by abolitionism and rein forced by the North’s failure to follow a consistent racial policy, either in its demands made upon the South or in its handling of the problem in its own backyard In a word, Mississippians consider Northerners hypocritical. The genesis of the current agony, of course, lies in the school de segregation decision of the Su preme Court. Dr. C. Vann Wood ward, an authority on the history of the post-Civil War South, has written that Mississippi came for ward in 1954 “in her historic role as leader of reaction in race policy, just as she had in 1875 to over throw Reconstruction and in 1890 to disfranchise the Negro.” Significantly, many of the state’s present leaders — Governor Bar nett, House Speaker Walter Sillers and Senato James O. Eastland grew up in the climate of reac tion created by those earliei bench-marks of Southern democ racy. And 1hey served their polit ical apprenticeships in the .school of Senators James K. Vardaman, “The Great White Chief,” wno advocated repeal of the 15th Amendment as the first step to ward saving Anglo-Saxon civiliza tion, and Theodore G. Bilbo, known as “The Man,” who plumb ed the depths of demagoguery. Raw material from this back ground combined with the catalyst of the court’s desegregation ruling to touch off a racial conflagration. The first alarm was sounded in the Delta county of Sunflower, home of Senator Eastland, in the summer of 1954 when the first Citizens Council was founded. This was the initial step toward institutionalized bigotry in a more or less respectable setting. There followed a campaign of indoctrination with few parallels in American history. The results have been described by Dr. James W. Silver, professor of history at the University of Mississippi, in The New' Mexico Electric News: “Most organizations and individ uals (press, pulpit, politicians, patriots, philosophers) capaoie oi influencing public opinion are militantly arrayed in the indoc trination process. A never-ceasing propagation of the ‘true faith goes on day after day. The constant demand, particularly in emergen cies, for a united front requies that potential nonconfomists and dissenters from the accepted code be kept under wraps, squelched, or, in extreme cases, run out of the community.” What happens to those who dissent is shown by the case of Ira Harkey, editor and publisher of The Chronicle at Pascagoula. Harkey who resembles a low-key Jimmy Cagney, holds that the rights of every man should be protected, “whether he be white, black, yellow, green or shades in between.” One of his most biting editorial commentaries on the Mississippi scene followed pub lication of a letter from a rela tive of Governor Barnett who is a missionay in Africa. She cri ticized Mississippians for sending persons to minister to Negroes abroad and then undercutting the Viv mistreating Ne groes at home. To this, The Chron icle said: “In Mississippi, a person who attempts to carry Christianity out the church door, who dares to practice the Christian virtue of tolerance outside the church, 1 cursed as a liberal, a leftist, a Communist, a Niggerlover. Christ was the greatest champion of the underdog the world has ever known. If He were to visit us here, now, by whose side would He stand, beside the brick-throwing, foul-mouthered, destroying, pro faning, slavering members of the mob and their ‘nice-folk’ eggers on, or beside the trembling vic tim of their hate?” Harkey’s rewards have included a bullet through The Chronicle’s front door, a shotgun blast through his office window, an advertising boycott, “hate” mail and social ostracism. Other dissenters who have broken the silence imposed by fear or expediency have received similar treatment. Among them are Methodist ministers who have lost their pulpits, students who have been hounded out of the University of Mississippi for be friending James Meredith, and faculty members suer ps G. Ray Kerciu, as assistant processor of art who was threatened with penalties totaling seven months’ Imprisonment and $600 in fines for a painting inspired by the Ole Miss riots. There is no ready panacea for the social ills that afflict Missis sippi. But there is hope. The pres sure on Mr. H a r k e y has been eased since Claude Ramsay, the bluff president of the state A.F.L. C.I.O., and a handful of others came to his support. Th© charges against Mr. Kerciu have been dropped. And there are other harbingers of a new day: voting applicants standing patiently at the court house door in Greenwood for hour on endless hour, a Justice De partment attorney shaking hands with a Negro while a white wom an shivers with rage, the songs of freedom rolling out of the little Negro churches into the blackness of the Delta night, and a white man, trapped by a system he inherited, smiling sadly and say ing, “We would like to be more responsible than we can afford to be.” Sitting in his modernistic office overlooking Jackson, a prominent lawyer spoke of the state’s respon sible citizens and their weariness with racism and its fruits. “The human mind can accept just so much of this type of thing, then it seeks relief,” he said. Former Congressman Frank Smith of Greenwood gave voice to the sentiments of this group as he left office. ‘We cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of the United States any more than the United States can isolate itself from the world . . . Our racial problems are going to remain for years to come. But the most cer tain thing about them is that any remedies based on hate will mere ly aggravate the problems instead of simplifying them.” It is questionable that Missis ptitmuted ftw* BOSTON LOS ANGELES LONDON CHICAGO Interesting Accurate Complete International Newt Coverage The Christlon Science Monitor One Norwoy St., Boston If# Moss, tend your newspaper for the time checked. Enclosed find my eheck or money order. □ 1 yeor $22. Q 6 months $11 □ i month* $5.10 Flame Address -City-KnT~ 51oli PB-16 sippians are yet prepared to heed the advice of Mt. Smith, now a director of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The state will elect a sew Governor next fall, and it now appears that another mem ber of the Vardaman-Bilbo school will succeed Barnett. The most effective influence could be exerted by industrialists and financiers outside the state, although they are traditionally hesitant to become involved in such matters. Indeed, concern over the possible harmful effects of the controversy already has led some prominent Mississippi businessmen to exert pressure for moderation. It seems evident that Mississippi cannot long delay some comprom ise with the legitimate demands of its Negro citizens. The hazards of the present situation are im plicit in the mounting evidence of widespread bitterness. In the crowded sanctuary of a Negro church one warm spring night, a speaker at a voter registration rally referred with sarcasm to "the good white people.” A voice from the audience shouted: "They ain’t no good! None of them!” (Copyright by New York Times. 1 Reprinted by permission.) dainty heel and to# pn the go they never show new hidden strength In Hgneinevyfft seamless sfodtfngs Style 415 $1*50 Colors: Boli Rose South Pocific Barely There [n The Petal Papel THE PETAL PAPER: Printed month ly by THE SOUTHERN FARMER, INC., Montgomery, Ala. Published by East Publications Co., Box 1486, Hattiesburg, Miss. Entered as second class malter at the Post Office at Petal. Mississippi, under Act of March 8, 1879. REENTERED AT MONTGOMERY, ALA. Second class postage paid at Mont gomery, Ala. RETURN FORMS 3579 TO: THE PETAL PAPER, BOX 1486, HATTIES BURG, MISS. P. D East_Editor & Publisher SUBSCRIPTIONS One Year _$3 00 Two Years -$5 00 13,000 Deformed Babies Some geneticists warn that testing of nuclear weapons al ready completed will mean an additional 13,000 babies born deformed physically or men tally. Do you want this on your con science? Or are you ready to turn your back on such mon strous evils, call for the end ol testing and enlist for peace? For more information, write to FELLOWSHIP OF RECONCILIATION Box 271 Nyock, N. Y.