Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mississippi Still Suffering Today for Past Sins

An antebellum mansion in Mississippi

I've been to Mississippi but one time in my life so I cannot tell you much first-hand about that state beyond the history we explored at a Civil War battlefield in Vicksburg, the gracious hospitality of the people we met, the beautifully preserved antebellum homes, and the delicious southern cooking we enjoyed. 

 Finishing up a great southern dinner with coffee and pie

The USS Cairo gunboat preserved at Vicksburg museum

I do know that a horrific history of racial injustice still lives on in the lives of many of the people who live in Mississippi today.  

James Craig Anderson
One sordid story from 2011 is that of a group of 10 white young people who drove to "Jafrica" [the term they used for largely black Jackson, Mississippi] to "fuck with some niggers" that resulted in the murder of an African-American man named James Craig Anderson.    The case again re-ignited the old wound of "racial hatred" in Mississippi.  

Last week, three of the most culpable defendants received sentences from 7 1/2 to 50 years in federal prison.  Judge Carlton Reeves, a black Mississippi District Judge, delivered an amazing speech during his sentencing of those three men.  It is a moving condemnation of the senseless acts that he ties to the history of Mississippi racial injustice.  It's worth reading because Mississippi indeed still suffers today from its bloody and hateful past.  

When my husband and I visited Vicksburg, Mississippi in March of 2008, we had dinner at a local dining establishment where we joined a large table of local white citizens.  Upon finding we were from out-of-state, one older gentleman asked what we thought of Mississippi?  Did we believe all the terrible stories about the state's racial history?  Did we think they were racists?  I can't remember our response to this man's concerns but I do remember his story well.  He explained that Mississippi was "misunderstood" and that the black people were ignorant and did not value education. He especially mentioned that giving black people anything of value like "a better education was lost on them."   He said they were lazy and lacked moral values and that outsiders didn't understand that.  

It was clear to me from what he shared about his own life that this man was well-educated, wealthy and probably a "pillar" in his community.  At the time, I shuttered at what kind of society had such individuals making the laws and setting such examples for their children and other young people to follow.  Judge Reeves, a native Mississipian himself, spoke exactly on the fallout of such beliefs.


  1. The street names, the buildings, the statutes, the memories and the minds circa "The War of Northern Aggression." For some it still all there in the present. For others like my marine brother in law from Mississippi who served in Korea and Vietnam time has moved on....

    1. And of course so many have moved on. The South is changing but it's too late for people like James Craig Anderson.