Article Comment 

Donna Stark: Old times not forgotten




My grandfather, John Benjamin Beck, was born in 1862. His earliest memory was of his father, John T. Beck, waking him up where he was sleeping with his two older sisters in front of the fire. His father put the guns, swords, knives and ammunition he had assembled for his first cousin, Nathan Bedford Forrest, under the blankets in the bed and told the children to pretend to be asleep. The federal soldiers would not bother sleeping children and they would be safe. The soldiers opened the door, saw the children and backed out of the room. 


My Daddy, Leon J. Beck, was a twin born in 1908. Brother Mahon and Leon were children numbers eight and nine. They were a "fall crop," and so uncontrollable they shot flies off the walls of their new home in Holly Springs with 38 pistols. They were returned by Bellbuckle, a strict boys school, as incorrigible. My Grandmother Beck gave up on them and they roamed the town of Holly Springs at will.  


My daddy remembers attending a lynching as a boy. It horrified him and gave him night terrors. He also remembered Sheriff Thompson (the meanest man he ever encountered) turning away a lynch mob from the jail and protecting the black man in custody. The mob all knew Sheriff Thompson would shoot them without a thought. 


My personal memories of injustice involved my playmates, three African-American brothers, who came during the summer with their mother to our place. My Uncle Fred was the county attorney, and he made it possible for their abused mother to hide her family from her husband. 


When school started in the fall, the older boy went back to work the cotton fields with his father, while the little ones stayed behind. They would have been around 6 and 8. On a miserable rainy Mississippi winter day after Christmas, our big yellow "Holly Springs Separate School District" bus rolled past the two little boys, who were walking to the Rosenwald school in the rain. It hit a pothole and sprayed water from the wheels drenching them. The other children on the bus laughed. 


I cried to see my friends so wet after having walked so far in the cold to almost make it to school before being inundated. When I got home I asked my mother why they could not ride our bus and go to our school. She replied they had their own school that was supposed to be separate because they were black, but equal to ours, but that was a lie. 


Now I know that in 1941-42 in Mississippi the state spent $175 for every white student and $11 for a black student. The Rosenwald schools were built with grant money that had to be met with private donations for schools to exist for black students. Yet, their parents paid taxes to support the white separate school district. In the 1940''s more than 66% of black schools had no water supply and 90% had no outhouses. A description of the one black Yazoo County school by the health department was reported in the Jackson Daily News to be a place where "classes were being held ... recently, with temperatures in the rooms below freezing." (Dark Journey by Neil R. McMillen) 


My memories are of my Aunt Christine coming from Greenwood and talking of the horrible murder of Emmett Till when I was 9; when I was 17, coming from Greenwood after the murder of Medgar Evers and saying "Delay is such a fool he is making the rounds in restaurants bragging about killing Evers!" She said he came from a good family and was a member of the Citizen''s Council, but he was just a fool. 


I cannot understand Haley Barbour not remembering. He lived closer to Greenwood than I did. Where was he during the same time period? Did he not read the newspapers, listen to his family talk? Was he raised in a family of white privilege where the only black people he knew were servants? How did he miss what was so pervasive for me? We are only a year apart in age and lived in the same state. What was he doing those years in the Mississippi Delta where so much suffering took place? 


How did he think the White Citizens Council operated? Did his family not talk about the 53 Yazoo City NAACP members who asked in the mid-50s that their children be afforded an education? They did not even ask for integration, just that the money allotted be equal. In 1955 in Yazoo City the county spent $245 for white students and $3 per child for black students, yet the White Citizens Council harassed those NAACP members until 51 of them removed their names from their petition and the other two moved. Haley Barbour was only 8 then, one might say, but he did form an opinion apparently about the White Citizen''s Councils, because we heard it recently. 


When I was 18 a group of students from Mississippi College went to Tougaloo to talk about what we could do as students to facilitate justice in Mississippi. Our license plates were taken down and informants in the group gave our names to the White Citizen''s Council of Jackson. They contacted the owners of the cars and told them to stop the activity or suffer the consequences. The administration at Mississippi College let us know there would be no more visits to Tougaloo. 


The Citizen''s Councils were a cut above the Klan, and except for Byron Delay Beckwith, I never knew of them to kill anyone. They used their business associations to deliver economic threats, and their ties to the law enforcement community to gather names of the "troublemakers."  


They were not upstanding citizens of the community. They were white bigots who banned together to harass people. They were cowards and bullies. They did not sign their names to their threats. 


Let''s not white-wash history for the purpose of giving our Gov. Barbour a pass. Amnesia is convenient, but cowardly. Our towns were not Mayberry, and there were those of us who did think "diddly" about it. In fact our past is our collective past and we are still seeing the results of this unfairness in our present when 78% of white males graduate from high school and only 47% of black males graduate ("Crisis", centennial issue 2010 of NAACP). 


All the citizens of Mississippi have a history to tell and not just the powerful affluent white ones. Thank goodness they are teaching civil rights in our schools now. Maybe all children will read, "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly (MLK, 1963)." 


The writer lives in Starkville.



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Reader Comments

Article Comment lateral caudal nidopallium commented at 2/14/2011 12:51:00 PM:

I was with until you wrote " In fact our past is our collective past". That is tantamount to accusing innocent people of being part of a mob, when in fact they weren't. I will carry my own accountability for what I do in my life, through action or inaction, but not for what another person does. This is goes totally against what the Bible says about personal accountability.
When Kabir Karriem and Robert Smith had a physical altercation in the city hall building, the response from prominent African-Americans was that people should not judge an entire race, or other African-American men for that matter, based on the actions of two individuals. I agree with that but it should apply to everyone or it applies to no one.
I am not responsible for anything my father did, or my mother, or any aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, other relatives living or dead, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, fellow church goers, postman, pest exterminator, plumber, veterinarian, doctor, anyone other than myself. I refuse to accept guilt any longer for actions that I am not responsible for. I believe it to be unscriptural and unchristian, as it avoids the inevitable accounting that every person must face for the decisions they have made in their lives.
I challenge anyone to give a truthful justification for any expectation that an individual accept guilt for actions taken by another person. Anyone.


Article Comment disgustedwithbarber commented at 2/14/2011 2:11:00 PM:

I enjoyed the article very much and feel memories such as these are the history that should be taught in schools. Anyone with a moral compass of any kind has to agree that cival rights and equality must exist for ALL of God's people. And while I also agree I don't feel it's appropriate for some folks to have "selective" memories I also don't feel it's appropriate or fair to hold me accountable for others actions from the past. I believe in God, I believe we are all equal in my eyes and in His eyes. Please don't lump me in with the "other person" either!


Article Comment eqadams commented at 2/14/2011 11:53:00 PM:

In response to lateral caudal nidopallium - You said and I quote "I will carry my own accountability for what I do in my life, through action or inaction, but not for what another person does." unquote.
No one is saying that you should accept responsibility for/and or others, but what I am saying that if you are WHITE and you understand the TRUE history of the United States of America - just acknowledge it. Awhile back the State of Virginia tried to omit SLAVERY from it remembrances of its history. As a African American, age 71, I lived through the JIM CROW AREA and it was not pretty as it relates to human relations with white people in the South. Gov. Barbour(Mississippi), age 63, also grew up during this period, however, amnesia is convenient when you do not want to acknowledge the good, the bad of US History. It was/is not pretty but it is the TRUTH. To get some insight of what it was like during the Jim Crow Area just GOOGLE jim crow laws and also The citizens council.


Article Comment eqadams commented at 2/14/2011 11:59:00 PM:

newest first


Article Comment ckirby commented at 2/15/2011 6:41:00 AM:

That was exactly was written, that it is a collective history. Collective, meaning the whole group. That includes anyone who lived or resided in the state, even if they weren't old enough to have contributed to that history, or even if they were, even if they were enthusiastic anti-segregationists, it was written that the history is a collective history of everyone in the state.
I agree with the other writers. I didn't put Japanese into prison camps, I didn't put Jews into concentration camps and I wasn't old enough to vote in the segregationist era. It is not my history. My race, Mr. Adams, is none of your business and has absolutely nothing to do with my guilt or innocence of anything. Race is not a choice that people make, so get over the racist attitude.
If you have a problem with the way any human being treated you, take your complaints to that person or those persons, take a spiritual brother or sister with you if necessary, but stop trying to hold people responsible or accountable for something based on their race.


Article Comment hope commented at 2/15/2011 9:25:00 AM:

Whether Barbour remembers or doesn't remember, it appears it will make no difference in the Presidential race. At the CPAC convention, he only garnished 1% of votes in the straw poll to run for President. Wiseman had said that Barbour being on the Presidential ticket with Palin would make it more "meaty." With Palin getting only 3% of the vote, it looks like they will have to take their meat and do something else with it.


Article Comment jim varnon commented at 2/15/2011 10:57:00 AM:

WASSUP with all ya'll ? I'm no racist...PERIOD ! But as for Barbers comments, How many young teenagers remember the specifics of the events that most of their parents kept them sheltered from any way ?? As for "collective responsibility"..My great, great grandfather, great grand father, grandfather, father nor myself NEVER OWNED A SINGLE Slave...I think the sterotyping and racial profiling that the media and politicians point out, ought to apply to the white, southern male, just as it applies to those of any ethnic group.I am NOT GUILTY
of hate, racism or owning any slaves.


Article Comment jim varnon commented at 2/15/2011 11:06:00 AM:

By all of the above, I just want to point out that if Gov. Barber is 63 now, then he was only 13(IN MIDDLE SCHOOL) in 1960.. A LOT different that being a 21-22 year old adult, by anyone's standard...LOOK AHEAD PEOPLE.


Article Comment titus commented at 2/16/2011 5:19:00 AM:

I'm so confused! Are we supposed to remember or not? Recent articles and comments concerning the post office picture lead me to believe I shouldn't remember. Now this article comes along and says, Amnesia is convenient, but cowardly. Are we just supposed to remember what the article of the day says or should we remember history as it was and not whitewash it as the author says? You can't have it both ways! Someone please make up my mind.


Article Comment jim varnon commented at 2/16/2011 2:10:00 PM:

I like the comment that Titus makes...remember it just like it whitewash...If you're old enough to remember it,just like it was...that is all that I would add. I'm from B'ham...let's just ask
...where were you the day the 16th st. Baptist Church was bombed ? How many little girls died there and what was the date ?? Not fair to consult a have to remember it...Please do not respond if you are under 60....ok...GO!!


Article Comment zenreaper commented at 2/16/2011 5:22:00 PM:

Yeah, lets keep that racist Haley Barbour out of the White House, cause he was ALIVE during racist times in Mississippi, right? How about you STOP looking back, START looking forward and realize that Barbour is NOT going to reinstate SLAVERY, NOT going to repeal civil rights, and NOT going to take away the black vote. But what he MIGHt be able to do is to steer some Federal money to the BROKE state, and create some jobs an prosperity for a state that while DEEP with pride and tradition, is LACKING in financial growth.

But PLEASE, cut off your nose to spite your face. Because once the poverty and the joblessness are gone, many in the black community will have no one to blame for their own failures but themselves.


Article Comment hope commented at 2/16/2011 8:06:00 PM:

@zenreaper-------FEDERAL MONEY:For every dollar the state pays in federal tax, we get almost two back. With the Republican Tea Party getting elected because of too much Federal spending, Barbour will have no choice but to go along with them. At the same time our state was thriving on D.C. dollars, most of our people voted for the ones who are going to take our D.C. welfare away from us. They will have no one to blame but themselves.


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