MOVEMENT WRITING:  SOME IDAHO THOUGHTS TO DIXIE [POLITICALLY SANITIZING WRITERS AND MOVEMENT "EXPERTS"]  HUNTER GRAY/JOHN R. SALTER, JR.   FEBRUARY 18  2006    UPDATED NOVEMBER 29 2007

UPDATE NOTE  11/29/07

NOTE BY HUNTER:  HISTORICAL REVISIONISM -- DIXIE STYLE
 
Simply for informational purposes.  I sent this to several family members this morning.  John [Beba] responded aptly with, "
I'm sure we’ll see more and more of this.  Part of the problem could be the media, a desire to feel good about things, a kind of touchy-feely philosophy.  As if all the bad things in Mississippi were perpetrated by a handful of tobacco-spitting hicks.
 
Locally, they've chosen to name the new school in Fargo after native Fargoan Judge Davies of Little Rock decision fame.  What do you think of that?"  [John] 
 
[I agree much with naming the school for Judge Davies.  H.]
 
 
From Hunter:
 
Just a note.  Mack [Peter] sent, yesterday, the press notice of a new book purportedly covering a piece of the civil rights situation in Mississippi.  The book was written and published by a local judge who, now elderly, is at Laurel, Jones County.  Mack, rightly, made no personal comment on the book and my response was one of basic skepticism.  The judge, though apparently decrying the old racist atrocities and Klan stuff, also sought to characterize the FBI as "outsiders" who pre-empted positive efforts by locals of influence to work out their problems [even sought to link FBI to Mafia people which has no substantive basis in the Southern situation.]  The only reason I mention this is to note that, in recent years, there has been a "historically revisionist" trend at the local level in some parts of Dixie to give the impression that, "bad as the Old Way was," local whites were "working hard to work out our [ their] problems."  With a few courageous exceptions, local whites were either going along with the racist system and the White Councils and Klan influences, or were simply silent.  In the past two years, for example, a labor union person has been extensively quoted in the Clarion-Ledger out of Jackson re his purported role in working for civil rights during our period.  I had never heard of the guy. [The state president of AFL-CIO, Claude Ramsay, was much on our side -- but his was often a lonely trail.]  At Neshoba County, an old editor of the local paper claimed he had worked against the KKK.  He had not.  The judge's book takes the same basic line, i.e., "If we had only been left alone to solve our problems."  This is b.s.  It took "outside agitators"  and some lonely and courageous local Black activists  and a few courageous Southern whites -- and then vast throngs of brave grassroots Black people to build the pressure that eventually cracked that hideous system.  The FBI, as I mentioned to Mack, generally cooperated with local Dixie lawmen or claimed it had no jurisdiction to do anything about gross violations of human rights.  Often, it covertly worked against us.  In well publicized cases, e.g., Medgar and the Neshoba killings, FBI was quite helpful.  In time, FBI came -- at a glacial pace -- to play more of a positive role, especially after passage of the Civil Rights acts.  But it took outsiders and gutty local Blacks and an initially bare handful of courageous white locals to create the situation that cracked things.  National writers, not Taylor Branch, are beginning to get things right -- and there are still solid accounts by now old civil rights activists.  But there has been a lot of  self serving historical revision going on.
 
Best, D [Dad]
 

 

FROM HUNTER ON OUR RECENT WEBPAGE: MISSISSIPPI CONTEMPORARY [PERSONAL]

http://www.hunterbear.org/MISSISSIPPI%20CONTEMPORARY%20[PERSONAL.htm

And then, just the other day, the monthly newsletter of MDAH came routinely to me as a Life member of the Historical Society.  In it was a list of about two dozen books deemed by its staff to be "Essential Reading" vis-a-vis Black History Month.  My book, Jackson Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism [1979, and 1987] is not among them.   And neither is anything by Myrlie Evers or Anne Moody or some other activist authors.  The issue for me is not with most of those books so listed -- the great majority are solid works -- but it is with those omitted obviously because of MDAH's increasing bent toward academic/professorial "respectability."  [NOTE BY H:  The Mississippi Historical Society and Mississippi Department of Archives and History are very closely linked.]

Jackson, Mississippi drew several dozen fine reviews -- and had been sold for years by the Old Capitol Bookstore, part of MDAH.  A couple of years before his death, Professor Jim Silver, the long embattled voice of courage at Ole Miss, and whose great classic,  Mississippi: The Closed Society, is deservedly listed, wrote a statement on behalf of me:

JAMES WESLEY SILVER [d. 1988]

"I was so impressed with his book, Jackson, Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism, that I purchased copies for my three children born in Mississippi . . .Of course I knew about his courageous course at Tougaloo College long before that. . .He is unquestionably a rare find who combines dedication with an exceedingly purposeful life."

Jim Silver

[ For substantial excerpts from many of the reviews drawn by Jackson, Mississippi, see this webpage of ours,     http://www.hunterbear.org/jackson.htm


NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR: 2/18/06

[ Some Idaho Thoughts to Dixie: Politically Sanitizing Writers and Movement
"Experts" ]

Introductory note to this:  There are many solid writers, seasoned
participants, academics and otherwise, who have well handled topics such as
Native rights, militant labor, civil rights, struggle and sacrifice in
general. A couple of years ago, we were very pleased to see Kass Fleisher's
well-researched and excellently written work on a signal and often ignored
tragedy involving the 1863 military murder of 300 peaceful Shoshone
people -- men, women, and children south of this very Idaho setting of ours:
The Bear River Massacre and the Making of History [SUNY Press, 2004].  She
worked hard and effectively in digging up and presenting that atrocity in
all its horror and its historical -- and very much contemporary --
ramifications.  I was very pleased to endorse her book in its developmental
stages and all the way through -- and should add that I spoke publicly of it
last month at the regional King Day gathering here at Pocatello.  Much solid
work has always emerged in the context of social justice -- always has,
always will.

But there has also been much of the Other.

Excerpts of a February 17 2006 letter of mine to an old acquaintance in Mississippi

"Hearing about a Jackson State University prof who is an expert on the Jackson Movement
is reminiscent of some Anthro approaches to American Indians.  On August 22,
1962, I sat in our home at Tougaloo on a very hot afternoon and started
typing.  When Eldri asked what I was up to, I told her Volume 1 Number 1 of
North Jackson Action -- soon to be our fast growing activist bulletin -- and
said we were going to crack, break Jackson.  A year later, we all -- all of
us together -- had essentially accomplished just that.

My faith in many historians is limited.  In the end, Professor [John] Dittmer's
product  [Local People The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi] was,
at least from my perspective, disappointing.  In his first book, Taylor
Branch, not of course a real historian, has no mention of me or my book.
What he does mention, to cite one example, is the rather somber dinner that
Eldri and I had with Medgar and Myrlie late in '62.  The only place that's
mentioned, anywhere, is in my own book -- and Branch wrote about that very
carefully,  almost cunningly, in order to avoid any mention of me etc.  I
don't consider him honest.  The second book listed mine in the large, small
print bibliography -- and I won't be getting his third thing.  I don't think
his politically sanitized stuff, or those by many historians, will endure
over the long haul. [Some, like Dittmer's, will continue -- as an overview,
however uneven and essentially cautious.  Branch's things really offer
little -- a sanitized, popular product that could, for a time, sell well --
but without being really read.]  In the end, genuine students of these
epochs will search out primary accounts by actual participants or at least
actual participant observers -- or very careful and empathetic researchers.
Labor Studies proves that point again and again over its very long haul.
I hope you get your stuff into print and Out There. . .

Anyway, that's it for the moment.  We should always remember that we did
attempt and did accomplish -- with the involvement of a great many people
indeed -- truly big and wonderful things.  Hopefully, we all will do still
more.

All best, Hunter or John

HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

SAM FRIEDMAN COMMENTS:  2/18/06

Indeed.
I would add, as someone who wrote a sociological history of an activist
Teamsters Local (Teamster Rank and File, Columbia University Press,
1982), that I trust neither myself nor the participants to "get it
right" in any 100% sort of way.  Historical analysis of these kinds of
events is trying to get at the actions of hundreds or thousands
(sometimes millions) of people, all of whom had only a partial view of
what was happening.  And of course all of whom have their own ways of
looking of things--and these ways change over time.

But some folks may have worse blinders than others, or even be
consciously avoiding saying certain truths...and I would buy them only
for being able to know what they were saying so as to criticize it,
usually.
best
sam [friedman]

FURTHER NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR  [2/18/06]

The following are among a number of relatively recent books which involve the massive Jackson Movement --  located up-front in my personal and large social justice library:

John Dittmer, Local People:  The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi, [Champaign, IL., University of Illinois Press, 1994.]:

Myrlie Evers-Williams and Manning Marable, [Editors],  The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero's Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches  [New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005].

Susie Erenrich, [Editor],  Freedom Is A Constant Struggle: An Anthology of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement , [Montgomery: Black Belt Press, 1999].

Erle Johnston, Mississippi's Defiant Years 1953-1973 , [Forest, MS., Lake Harbor Publishers, 1990].

Reed Massengill, Portrait Of A Racist:  The Man Who Killed Medgar Evers?,  [New York, St. Martin's Press, 1994.]

Adam Nossiter, Of Long Memory:  Mississippi And The Murder of Medgar Evers, [New York, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1994.]

M. Susan Orr-Klopfer, Where Rebels Roost:  Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited , [2005-2006].

Maryanne Vollers, Ghosts of Mississippi:  The Murder of Medgar Evers, the Trials of Byron de la Beckwith, and the Haunting of the New South, [Boston, Little Brown, 1995].

AND A BIT MORE  FROM ME:

Here are a few of my favorite examples of solid primary, first-hand writing -- drawn from many in rich realms:

I have a special, personal interest in the Iroquois and the great Confederacy.  Among my specials in that context are Parker on the Iroquois [edited by William N. Fenton, Syracuse University Press, 1968] -- a truly massive collection of the fine research and writing by Arthur C. Parker [1881-1955], the distinguished Seneca ethnologist and Bear Clan member.  [Arthur Parker, who was also a founder of the Society of American Indians [1911] and the National Congress of American Indians [1944] was an important role model for me.]

Chief Clinton Rickard [1882-1971], Tuscarora, was not only a major Iroquois activist but one who worked with those of many other nations as well -- including the Algonquin Nation of east/central Canada.  A major focus of his involved the organizing and development and activism of the Indian Defense League of America and its enduring struggle to enforce the mutually free border access provisions for Natives set forth in the Jay Treaty of 1794.  His book is Fighting Tuscarora:  The Autobiography of Chief Clinton Rickard [edited by Barbara Graymont, Syracuse University Press, 1973.

High calibre fiction can provide much deep insight.  And a special work for me in that genre is The Grass Dancer, a novel by Susan Mary Power [Yanktonnai] -- focused on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.  Susan and her mother, Susan Kelly Power [Yanktonnai], are among our oldest and dearest friends.  The Grass Dancer, a best seller which won numerous awards, is published by Putnam, New York, 1994.

 

HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

See http://www.hunterbear.org/GRAY%20LANDS%20AND%20GRAY%20GHOSTS.htm

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]

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