America’s Race-relations Agony

The cemetery of the Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church is allegedly the final resting place of famed blues musician Robert Johnson. Hannah-Joneses’ great grandparents are buried there. Photo by Edmund D. Fountain, special to ProPublica. © 2014

The cemetery of the Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church is allegedly the final resting place of famed blues musician Robert Johnson. Hannah-Joneses’ great grandparents are buried there. Photo by Edmund D. Fountain, special to ProPublica. © 2014

Six decades ago this year, the United States Supreme Court outlawed “separate but equal” schools. Fifty years ago this summer, hundreds of black and white volunteers converged on Mississippi in an effort to — as they put it — make Mississippi a part of America. And still, even with the country led by a president with dark skin, whose father hails from Africa and whose mother is of caucasian ancestry, the United States is torn by racial tension.

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones of ProPublica has spent much of this year documenting the the civil rights movement on these historic anniversaries. Facts and Opinions highlights two pieces from her series on America’s Freedom Summer which, she wrote, “spanned 10 bloody weeks, helped transform the South and aided in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that helped ensure black Southerners their constitutional right to vote.”

Ghosts of Greenwood is the tale of Hannah Jones’s own family. It begins:

In 1947, my father, along with his mother and older brother, boarded a northbound train in the American city of Greenwood, Miss. They carried with them nothing but a suitcase stuffed with clothes, a bag of cold chicken, and my grandmother’s determination that her children, my father was just 2 years old, would not be doomed to a life of picking cotton in the feudal society that was the Mississippi Delta … read more.

Brutal Loss, Enduring Conviction is an interview with the widow of a civil rights worker who paid the ultimate price for his convictions:

On June 21, 1964, at the launch of Freedom Summer, three civil rights workers went missing in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Forty-four days later, United States federal agents searching an earthen dam confirmed what many had already suspected: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner had been murdered, and in time the Klan would be found responsible. While her husband and his fellow civil rights workers became martyrs, Rita Schwerner, then 22, became a widow … read more.

In the spring Hannah-Jones went to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to investigate the resegregation of Southern schools; you can find our blog post, with videos, about her work here: Racial resegregation in the American south.

 

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