In Fred Hobson’s Tell About the South, he writes of a well-to-do white writer named Lillian Smith, born in Jasper, Florida, a mere eighty miles from my home in the hills of Leon County. I had never heard of her. Unlike her contemporaries W. J. Cash, author of The Mind of the South, and Clarence Cason, author of 90° in the Shade, Smith did not go the full Quentin Compson and commit suicide after publishing a poetic, guilt-laden jeremiad—but instead authored book after book laying bare the South’s transgressions. She was fearless, a rabble-rouser and rebel who integrated her life and art.
A Points South essay from the 100th issue.
“For more than three decades this maddening story of Evers’s murder and the question of Beckwith’s guilt or innocence has been told again and again, in conflicting voices and varying contexts, with no conclusion. Facts have been rearranged, deleted, added, interpreted differently. Yet one fact remains undisputed: the man responsible for one of the most notorious murders of the civil rights era remains free. Who is he? It is as if we are driving in rush hour traffic in a rusty Valiant with an expired tag. Alongside us sits an old and familiar white supremacist. We hear the ticking of a bomb in the back seat. The old man grins. Where is it we are going?”
Brother Dynamite in reflection
Hounded throughout by the Man, busted, shot at, Big Man managed to stay out of the jackpot. It probably helped that he was a quiet cat who played things close. He’s like that nowadays, not particularly keen on self-promotion, almost to a fault. He can be leery, circumspect. Sharing just isn’t his thing, let’s put it that way. But probably it’s why he’s lasted so long.
A Southern Journey from the Summer 2019 issue.
Today we think of the fight for educational equality as being a national story, one involving a progressive Supreme Court, a reluctant president, and a recalcitrant governor in Arkansas, but the struggle was fueled by black parents and teachers and students across the country. It depended upon women like Laura and teachers like Carl and patriarchs like Isaac who labored across generations to reset their children’s future.
A story by Claudia Perry from the 2013 Tennessee Music Issue.
I felt a little weary of Jesus as we traveled. Although my voice was womanly, I was still a girl of fourteen years. It was not that my belief wavered, but I grew tired of being in strange surroundings. I did find beauty in the green hills of Scotland and the waters of Holland. The travel on steamships was also exciting. And when we sang, many of my cares melted away.
When I was a kid in 1970s Memphis, limousines were a rare sight, though two would occasionally appear in traffic. From the backseat of our family station wagon, we’d scream for Mother to pull up closer. We’d know whose it was by the license plate. Elvis Presley’s was not customized. Isaac Hayes’s read MOSES, referring to his nickname, Black Moses. He was leading people to the Promised Land.
An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.
From the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University: To introduce our first story for The By and By, a writing-and-audio narrative around the new book The Blood of Emmett Till, we asked its author, Timothy B. Tyson, to reflect on the overwhelming response to the book since its release, why the story of Emmett Till continues to resonate so profoundly.
“At first, I couldn’t come in a place like this,” Helen Summerville told me one recent afternoon as she forked into a mound of cornbread dressing and giblet gravy at Kairos Kafe on the south side of Birmingham, Alabama. “And then, for a while, I wouldn’t come in,” she said. “None of that matters now.” Prior to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Summerville, who is black, would not have been served in most white-owned dining rooms in Birmingham. Back then, Ollie’s Bar-B-Q—which was open from 1926 through 2001 and claimed three locations in this neighborhood, including the one now occupied by Kairos—was among the staunchest defenders of the Jim Crow laws and practices that dictated separate eating facilities for whites and blacks.
On Texas, old newspapers, race music, and two black lives that shaped the history of civil rights
In 1891, C. N. Love noticed how much money other state’s newspapers were making on his labor and connections. He started the Navasota Echo, one of the first black papers in Texas, “the cheapest and best colored paper published west of the Mississippi,” he boasted, calling it a publication “devoted to the interests of the people in general and the negro in particular.”
On Texas, old newspapers, race music, and two black lives that shaped the history of civil rights.
C. F. Richardson was self-avowedly “militant.” He used the word and lived it. On his draft card he identifies his race as Ethiopian. For a while he was employed as a printer, then as a night-watchman at a white newspaper. Through a connection he got himself hired as an editor at the black-Baptist Western Star, moving from there to the Houston Observer, where he started to write and make his name.