Mississippi Memories and the new Civil Rights Museum in Jackson

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Illustration from The Nation, Jan. 1, 1973, “Mississippi: A Giant Step to Moderation,”

The opening yesterday of the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum dredged up some memories, both old and new.

And that led me to dig up the following article — “Mississippi: A Giant Step to Moderation” — written after I graduated from Cornell back when when I was sure I would never live in Mississippi again.

March Against Fear

Key among those memories were the afternoon of June 25, 1966 when Arthur Hewitt and I drove to Madison to be spectators and get a chance to see Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Meredith as the March Against Fear as it made its way along US 51, north of Tougaloo where the marchers planned to stay overnight before heading into Jackson.

As things happened, a car full of school teachers had overheated because the day was very hot and the car was idling at a walking pace in the march.

When they pulled over, Arthur and I talked to them. They explained that the car had been having overheating problems and so had been carrying containers for water that they added periodically.

They had run out of water, so Arthur and I went to a nearby house. While we were refilling, the homeowner came out with a shotgun and chased us off. We ran to my car and drove off. The homeowner pursued. We eventually lost them after a chase on some pretty bad gravel roads.

The next day, I went back to join the marchers as they made their way along North State St.¬† — which was the route that U.S. 51 took through Jackson.

It took me a while, but I took those feelings, wrapped them up in my Mississippi Delta family history and tucked them into a thriller called PerfectKiller which I had to wait for my Mama to die before I could write it.

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