When I stopped running from my home state of Mississippi and returned home in 2001, I couldn’t foresee what lay ahead. I did know that I was fed up with the lies so many people had told me during my childhood in Neshoba County to keep me ignorant of horrors and discrimination committed supposedly to protect the honor and future of little white girls like me (and more honestly, the power of racists doing it).
Those connected horrors were like a daisy-chain backward through history—three civil-rights murders by a lynch mob of family acquaintances and relatives in my hometown; every effort by state government and law enforcement to punish anyone of any race who tried to push Black advancement; terrorist bombings in the 1960s of Jewish Mississippians who helped rebuild burned churches; and a legacy of slave-owning across the state that descendants don’t want younger generations to know about. That slave-owning history included some of my ancestors—history I didn’t know until I did the research myself as an adult. They likely supported the bloody southern reaction to Reconstruction designed to stop Black gains and punish white supporters in order to keep the white caste system in place.
The supposedly honorable war to maintain and extend slavery was back in the news this week after a prominent presidential candidate declared it wasn’t over slavery. Girl, please. It’s not like the old racist slavers didn’t tell us themselves.
Context Is Our Jam
I refused to accept the lies shoveled at me as I grew up in Mississippi, and that refusal still gets me called names and harassed. But from day one of co-founding the Jackson Free Press here on Sept. 22, 2002, I have encouraged and taught my team members to embed historic context whenever possible (and not let white men grab credit for changing the state flag way too late). We report the actual roots of crime, poverty and inequity, not to mention people who built their wealth for generations off land stolen from the Choctaw and Chickasaw and initially farmed by enslaved human beings, including children. And if we report on a Mississippi governor getting an award named for a Confederate governor, we’re going to also tell readers what a slimeball slaver and fireeater Gov. John J. Pettus
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