mississippi mounds

“We have a job as Black women to support whatever is right and to bring in justice where we’ve had so much injustice.” – Fannie Lou Hamer

HERStory Matters: Civil and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer was born on October 6, 1917.

Born Fannie Lou Townsend in rural Montgomery County, MS, she was the youngest of 20 children born to Jim and Ella Townsend, poor sharecroppers, who found it hard to provide proper food and clothing for their children. When she was six years old she joined her family in the fields picking cotton and dropped out of school by the time she was in the third grade.

When she was 16, she caught polio which made it hard for her to work in the fields. When Marlow (her boss) found out that Fannie Lou could read and write, he made her the time and record keeper for the plantation in addition to cooking and cleaning his house.

In 1945, at the age of 27, Fannie Lou married Perry “Pap” Hamer who was a tractor driver on the Marlow farm. They had no children of their own. Fannie Lou went to the hospital to find out why she could not conceive and was told she had a tumor. She wasn’t told that they performed a hysterectomy on her that day but was later told by the doctor that it was done out of kindness. Fannie Lou was outraged. As a result, the Hamers adopted 4 children, 2 girls and 2 boys who were all from very poor families.

On one fateful day, while walking by the Ruleville, Mississippi town center, Fannie Lou saw a sign posted by the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and decided to investigate. She was 37 years old at the time and was ripe for expressing her outrage over the conditions she and other blacks were subjected to in this rural community. She joined the SNCC and worked as a field worker on the voter registration committee. The committee worked on preparing blacks to read and write so they could register to vote.

Seventeen people tried to register and were turned back one day. When Marlow was informed of the drive to register, he threatened Fannie Lou and her family with expulsion from the plantation on which they worked. She left that night and stayed with friends but it wasn’t long before her location was discovered and she and her friends were shot at that night by the KKK.

She strongly believed that blacks could change their conditions, both political and economic, if they could vote for the candidates who would best serve them. Fannie Lou studied with the Southern Free School along with other potential voters and passed the voter registration test on her third try.

In 1963, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) was formed because no help from the Federal Government regarding the right to vote was apparently coming. The party registered
60,000 new black voters across the state of Mississippi. Delegates from the party were sent to the 1964 Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey where they challenged the seating of the Mississippi delegation.

Fannie Lou took the opportunity to describe to the convention, and to the world, the horrific way she was treated after they left the voter registration workshop in Charleston, South Carolina in June 1963. She said that on the way home, they were hungry and wanted to stop at a Trailways bus terminal in Winona, Mississippi for food. Fannie Lou decided to stay on the bus while the others went into the terminal. They were not served but were arrested. She was also arrested. She was taken out of her jail cell and taken to another cell and there, under the orders of a State Highway Patrol officer, was battered by two Negro prisoners with a police blackjack. The first prisoner beat her until he was exhausted. The law enforcement officer then ordered the second prisoner to beat her. It was three days before members of SNCC were allowed to take her to the hospital.

Fannie Lou told the convention that as a result of this beating, she suffered permanent kidney damage, a blood clot in the artery of her left eye, and a limp when she walked. Her riveting testimony to the convention, which was interrupted by a hastily called speech by President Johnson, informed the country about the treatment blacks were receiving at the hands of whites in the state of Mississippi and the rest of the south.

Fannie Lou’s involvement widened as she ran for Congress in the Mississippi state Democratic primary in 1964. She was unsuccessful in that run but she went on to appear at rallies and visit colleges and universities around the country to speak to students. She led the cotton pickers resistance movement in 1965 and was instrumental in helping to bring a Head Start program to her hometown of Ruleville, MS. Mrs. Hamer was also famous for her rich singing voice which she used often to soothe tensions and to fortify herself spiritually. She sang “This Little Light of Mine” and other spirituals to calm others during marches and critical events.

Fannie Lou was a Democratic National Committee Representative from 1968-1971. She ran for the Mississippi State Senate in 1971 and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1972.

In 1972, a unanimous resolution praising Fannie Lou’s statewide and national contribution to civil rights was passed by the Mississippi House of Representatives. Other awards came her way as the courageous work she undertook was recognized. She received honorary PhDs from several universities including Howard University.

Fannie Lou Hamer died in the hospital at Mound Bayou, Mississippi on March 14, 1977, of heart problems, hypertension, and breast cancer.

Learn more about Fannie Lou Hamer through several books and recordings, available athttp://amzn.to/2dPfWWE. Watch a trailer for an upcoming documentary about her life, “Fannie Lou Hamer’s America,” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SzxJuCs_nU.

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America’s Lost City — Cahokia and the Mound Builders

Long before Europeans first explored and settled the new world, what is now the United States was a host to a wide variety of rich, sophisticated, and vibrant cultures.  One of the most interesting were the Mississippian Mound builders, a culture that stretched from Illinois and Indiana, throughout the Mississippi River region, and as far south as the Gulf Coast.  Unlike most native cultures of the US and Canada, the Mississippians were unique in that they developed a society governed by centralized authority (a king or chief), built large cities and population centers, and conducted large scale engineering and agriculture.  The center of Mississippian culture revolves around mound building.  Usually the center of a Mississippian town or city was a large earthwork pyramid or platform which served as a religious and governmental center. 

Of all Mississippian population centers, the largest was a city called Cahokia, located in southern Illinois across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MI.  Settled around 600 AD, the city covered 6 square miles and featured 120 mounds of various sizes and shapes.  The largest is “Monks Mound”, a large terraced earthwork 100 feet high and with a base similar in size to the Great Pyramid of Giza (13.1 acres).

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 At its height around 1200 AD, Cahokia is estimated to have had a population of around 40,000 making it one of the largest cities in the world.  At that time Cahokia was comparable in population to London (40,000) and Venice (45,000), while Rome (20,000) was significantly smaller.

Like Ancient Rome, Cahokia is special in that all roads, or perhaps I should say rivers, led to it.  From 900 to 1200 AD Cahokia served as a primary trading center in what is now the United States.  As a result Cahokian trade goods can be found all over the Central United States.  Some of the most popular goods traded were metal goods, as Cahokia was one of the few cultures north of Meso-America to practice the art and science of metal working.  Most Cahokian metal work consists of copper items, many of which show incredible artistry and craftsmanship.  

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The decline of Cahokia began around 1,300.  Historians cite a number of reasons for the decline, including climate change, the use of unsustainable agricultural methods, poor waste disposal systems, political instability, famine, disease, and warfare.  As Cahokia declined so too did the culture of the Mississippian mound builders.  By the time Columbus “discovered” America, the city was abandoned.  The Mississippian culture itself broke down, its people forming the many tribes that inhabit the south such as the  Alabama, Apalachee, Caddo, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, Creek, Guale, Hitchiti, Houma, Kansa, Missouria, Mobilian,  Natchez, Osage, Quapaw, Seminole, Tunica-Biloxi,Yamasee, and Yuchi.

Today Cahokia is a National Historic Landmark, Illinois State Historic Site, and one of 21 UN World Heritage Sites in the United States.

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The Mound Builders to their descendants The Five Civilized Tribes (Southeast History)

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The Assassination of Civil Rights Activist Medgar Evers, & The Conviction Of His Killer 30+ Years After His Murder

Medgar’s Life & Activism Before His Assassination

Evers was born July 2, 1925, in Decatur, Mississippi, third of the five children (including older brother Charlie Evers) of James and Jesse Evers; the family also included Jesse’s two children from a previous marriage.[4] The Everses owned a small farm and James worked at a sawmill.[5] Evers walked twelve miles to go to school, and earned his high-school diploma.[6] From 1943 to 1945 he fought in the European Theater and the Battle of Normandy with the United States Army during World War II, and was discharged honorably as a sergeant.[7]

In 1948 Evers enrolled at Alcorn College (a historically black college, now Alcorn State University) majoring in business administration.[8] He also competed on the debate, football, and track teams, sang in the choir, and was junior class president.[9] He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1952.[8]

On December 24, 1951, he married classmate Myrlie Beasley.[10] Together they had three children: Darrell Kenyatta, Reena Denise, and James Van Dyke.[11] Darrell died in February 2001 of colon cancer.[12]

The couple moved to Mound Bayou, Mississippi, where Evers became a salesman for T. R. M. Howard’s Magnolia Mutual Life Insurance Company.[13] Howard was also president of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL);[14] Evers helped organize the RCNL’s boycott of filling stations which denied blacks use of the stations’ restrooms.[15] Evers and his brother Charles also attended the RCNL’s annual conferences in Mound Bayou between 1952 and 1954, which drew crowds of ten thousand or more.[16]

Evers applied to the then-segregated University of Mississippi Law School in 1954 but his application was rejected.[17] He submitted his application in concert with the NAACP as a test case.[18]

In late 1954 Evers’ was named the NAACP’s first field secretary for Mississippi.[5] In this position, he helped organize boycotts and set up new local chapters of the NAACP. He was involved with James Meredith’s efforts to enroll in the University of Mississippi in the early 1960s.[18] Evers’ also helped Dr. Gilbert Mason Sr. organize the Biloxi Wade-Ins, protests against segregation efforts on the Mississippi Gulf Coast beaches.[19]

Evers’ civil rights leadership and investigative work made him a target of white supremacists. In the weeks leading up to his death, the hostility directed towards him grew. His public investigations into the murder of Emmett Till and his vocal support of Clyde Kennard had made him a prominent black leader. On May 28, 1963, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the carport of his home.[20] On June 7, 1963, Evers was nearly run down by a car after he emerged from the Jackson NAACP office.[13]

The Assassination of Medgar Evers By His Murderer, Byron De La Beckwith & How Long It Took To Get Justice

In the early morning of June 12, 1963, just hours after President John F. Kennedy‘s speech on national television in support of civil rights, Evers pulled into his driveway after returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. Emerging from his car and carrying NAACP T-shirts that read “Jim Crow Must Go,” Evers was struck in the back with a bullet fired from an Enfield 1917 rifle; the bullet ripped through his heart. He staggered 9 meters (30 feet) before collapsing. He was taken to the local hospital in Jackson where he was initially refused entry because of his color, until it was explained who he was; he died in the hospital 50 minutes later.[21][full citation needed]

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The driveway where Medgar Evers was shot at 2332 Margaret Walker Alexander Drive.

[22]

Mourned nationally, Evers was buried on June 19 in Arlington National Cemetery, where he receivedfull military honors before a crowd of more than 3,000.[14]

On June 21, 1963, Byron De La Beckwith, a fertilizer salesman and member of the White Citizens’ Council (and later of the Ku Klux Klan), was arrested for Evers’ murder.[23]

District Attorney and future governor Bill Waller prosecuted De La Beckwith.[24] Juries composed solely of white men twice that yeardeadlocked on De La Beckwith’s guilt.

In 1994, 30 years after the two previous trials had failed to reach a verdict, De La Beckwith was brought to trial based on new evidence.Bobby DeLaughter was the prosecutor. During the trial, the body of Evers was exhumed from his grave for an autopsy.[3] De La Beckwith was convicted of murder on February 5, 1994, after having lived as a free man for much of the three decades following the killing (he was imprisoned from 1977 to 1980 for conspiring to murder A. I. Botnick). De La Beckwith appealed unsuccessfully, and died at age 80 in prison in January 2001.

The Murderer of Medgar Evers: Byron De La Beckwith

The White Citizens’ Council was founded in 1954 following the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that school segregation was unconstitutional. Begun in Mississippi, chapters arose in towns across the South and used a variety of economic tactics to suppress black activism and sustain segregation. The councils applied pressure through boycotts, denial of loans and credit, employment termination, and other means. In Mississippi they prevented school integration until 1964.[6]

De La Beckwith became a member of the White Citizens’ Council; however, he thought that more direct action was needed. On June 12, 1963, he assassinated NAACP civil rightsleader Medgar Evers outside Evers’ home in Jackson.

The state twice prosecuted De La Beckwith for murder in 1964, but both trials ended with hung juries. The jurors were all male and all white. Mississippi had effectivelydisfranchised black voters since 1890, and they were thus prevented from serving on juries, whose membership was limited to voters. During the second trial, the former GovernorRoss Barnett (D) interrupted the trial to shake hands with Beckwith while Myrlie Evers, the widow of the activist, was testifying.[1] In the 1980s, the Jackson Clarion Ledgerpublished reports on its investigation of the trial, which found that the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, supported by residents’ taxes, had assisted De La Beckwith’s attorneys in his second trial by using state resources to investigate members of the jury pool during voir dire.[1][2]

In January 1966, De La Beckwith, along with a number of other members of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee to testify about Klan activities. Although De La Beckwith gave his name when asked by the committee (unlike other witnesses, such as Sam Bowers, who invoked theFifth Amendment in response to that question), he answered no other substantive questions.[2] In the following years, Beckwith became a leader in the segregationist Phineas Priesthood, an offshoot of the white supremacist Christian Identity Movement. The group was known for its hostility towards African AmericansJewsCatholics, and foreigners.

According to Delmar Dennis, who acted as a key witness for the prosecution at the 1994 trial, De La Beckwith boasted of his role in the death of Medgar Evers at several KKK rallies and at similar gatherings in the years following his mistrials. In 1967, he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party’s nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi.[2]

In 1973, informants alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation of Beckwith’s plans to murder A.I. Botnick, director of the New Orleans-based B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League, in retaliation for comments that Botnick had made about white southerners and race relations. Following several days of surveillance, Beckwith’s car was stopped by New Orleans Police Department officers as he crossed over the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge. Among the contents of his vehicle were several loaded firearms, a map with highlighted directions to Botnick’s house, and a dynamite time bomb. On August 1, 1975, Beckwith was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder; he served nearly three years in the Angola Prison in Louisiana from May 1977 until his parole in January 1980.[2] Just before entering prison to serve his sentence, Beckwith was ordained by Rev. Dewey “Buddy” Tucker as a minister in the Temple Memorial Baptist Church; a Christian Identity congregation in KnoxvilleTennessee.[7]

“Where Is the Voice Coming From?” (1963), a short story by the notable writer Eudora Welty, is considered one of the most significant works related to De La Beckwith’s crime. Welty was from Jackson, Mississippi, and she said later:

“Whoever the murderer is, I know him: not his identity, but his coming about, in this time and place. That is, I ought to have learned by now, from here, what such a man, intent on such a deed, had going on in his mind. I wrote his story–my fiction–in the first person: about that character’s point of view.”[9]

Welty’s story was published in The New Yorker (July 6, 1963) soon after De La Beckwith’s arrest. So accurate was her portrayal that the magazine changed several details in the story before publication, for legal reasons.[10]

Byron De La Beckwith was the subject of the 1963 Bob Dylan song “Only a Pawn in Their Game”, which deplores Evers’ murder and the racial environment of the South.

In 1991, the murder of Evers and first trials of Beckwith were the basis of the episode titled “Sweet, Sweet Blues”, written by author William James Royce for the NBC television series In the Heat of the Night. In the episode, actor James Best plays a character based on De La Beckwith, an aging Klansman who appears to have gotten away with murder.

The 1996 film Ghosts of Mississippi tells the story of the murder and 1994 trial. James Woods portrayed De La Beckwith in an Academy Award-nominated performance.

In 2001, Bobby DeLaughter published his memoir of the case and trial, Never Too Late: A Prosecutor’s Story of Justice in the Medgar Evers Trial.[11]

Medgar’s Legacy

Evers’s legacy has been kept alive in a variety of ways. Evers was memorialized by leading Mississippi and national authors, both black and white: Eudora WeltyJames BaldwinMargaret Walker and Anne Moody.[25] In 1963, he was awarded the Spingarn Medal from theNAACP.[26] In 1969, Medgar Evers College was established in Brooklyn, New York as part of the City University of New York. Evers’s widow,Myrlie Evers co-wrote the book For Us, the Living with William Peters in 1967. In 1983, a movie was made based on the book. Celebrating Evers’s life and career, it starred Howard Rollins, Jr. and Irene Cara as Medgar and Myrlie Evers, airing on PBS. The film won the Writers Guild of America award for Best Adapted Drama.[27] On June 28, 1992, the city of Jackson, Mississippi erected a statue in honor of Evers. All of Delta Drive (part of U.S. Highway 49) in Jackson was renamed in Evers’ honor. In December 2004, the Jackson City Council changed the name of the city’s airport to “Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport” (Jackson-Evers International Airport) in honor of him.[28]

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Statue at Medgar Evers Boulevard Library in 

Jackson, Mississippi

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His widow Myrlie Evers became a noted activist in her own right later in life, eventually serving as chair of the NAACP.[29] Medgar’s brother Charles Evers returned to Jackson in July 1963 and served briefly in his slain brother’s place. He remained involved in Mississippi civil rights activities for many years and resides in Jackson.[30]

On the 40-year anniversary of Evers’ assassination, hundreds of civil rights veterans, government officials, and students from across the country gathered around his grave site at Arlington National Cemetery to celebrate his life and legacy. Barry Bradford and three students—Sharmistha Dev, Jajah Wu and Debra Siegel, formerly of Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois—planned and hosted the commemoration in his honor.[31] Evers was the subject of the students’ research project.[32]

In October 2009, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a former Mississippi governor, announced that USNS Medgar Evers (T-AKE-13), a Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship, would be named in the activist’s honor.[33] The ship was christened by Myrlie Evers-Williams on November 12, 2011.[34]

In June 2013, a statue of Evers was erected at his alma mater, Alcorn State University, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his death.[35] Alumni and guests from around the world gathered to recognize his contributions to American society.

Evers was further honored in a tribute at Arlington National Cemetery on the 50th anniversary of his death.[36] Former President Bill Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Senator Roger Wicker and NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous all spoke commemorating Evers.[37][38] Evers’ widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, who also honored her late husband, spoke on his contributions to the advancement of civil rights:[39]

“Medgar was a man who never wanted aberration, who never wanted to be in the limelight. He was a man who saw a job that needed to be done and he answered the call and the fight for freedom, dignity and justice not just for his people but all people.”

Medgar Evers’ Legacy In Popular Culture

The murder and subsequent trials caused an uproar. Musician Bob Dylan wrote his 1963 song “Only a Pawn in Their Game” about the assassination.[40] Nina Simone wrote and sang “Mississippi Goddam” about the Evers case and Phil Ochs wrote the songs “Another Country” and “Too Many Martyrs” (also titled “The Ballad Of Medgar Evers”) in response to the killing, with Matthew Jones and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating CommitteeFreedom Singers also recording the latter song.[40] Eudora Welty’s short story “Where Is the Voice Coming From”, in which the speaker is the imagined assassin of Medgar Evers, was published in The New Yorker in 1963.[41]

Evers’ story inspired a 1991 episode of the NBC TV series In the Heat of the Night, entitled “Sweet, Sweet Blues”, written by author William James Royce. The story tells of a murder of a young black man and the elderly white man, played by actor James Best, who seems to have gotten away with the 40-year-old murder. (The TV episode preceded by several years the trial that convicted Beckwith.) In the Heat of the Night won its first NAACP Image Award for Best Dramatic Series that season.[42]

The 1996 film Ghosts of Mississippi, directed by Rob Reiner, tells the story of the 1994 retrial of Beckwith, in which prosecutor DeLaughter of the Hinds County District Attorney’soffice secured a conviction in state court. Beckwith and DeLaughter were played by James Woods and Alec Baldwin, respectively; Whoopi Goldberg played Myrlie Evers. Evers was portrayed by James Pickens, Jr.. The film was based on a book of the same name.[43][44]

Robert DeLaughter wrote a first-person narrative article entitled “Mississippi Justice” published in Reader’s Digest, and a book, Never Too Late: A Prosecutor’s Story of Justice in the Medgar Evers Case (2001), based on his experiences.[45]

Rapper Jahshua Smith has a song entitled “The Ghost of Medgar Evers,” which can be heard on his 2013 release “The Final Season.” The song contains themes of revolution, political justice, and racial equality and empowerment.

Effigy Mounds National Monument

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effigy_Mounds_National_Monument

Prehistoric earthworks by mound builder cultures are common in the Midwest. However, mounds in the shape of mammals, birds, or reptiles, known as effigies, only exist in southern Wisconsin, northeast Iowa, and small parts of Minnesota and Illinois. One exception to this is the great serpent mound in south-eastern Ohio and Mound A at Poverty Point, Louisiana is built up in the shape of a large soaring bird.

Effigy Mounds National Monument represents the western edge of the effigy region. The North Unit (67 mounds) and South Unit (29 mounds) are located where the counties meet along the Mississippi River. They are contiguous and easily accessible. The Sny Magill Unit (112 mounds) is approximately 11 miles (18 km) south of the other units, and offers no visitor facilities. Other mounds are located on remote parts of the Monument property. The monument contains 2,526 acres (10.22 km2) with 206 mounds of which 31 are effigies. The largest, Great Bear Mound, measures 42 meters from head to tail and rises over a meter above the original ground level.

In northeastern Iowa the Effigy Mounds area was a point of transition between the eastern hardwood forests and the central prairies. Native American and early settlers would have been able to draw on natural resources available in forests, wetlands, and prairies, making the site hospitable for humans for many centuries.

Effigy Mounds is adjacent to the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge, the Yellow River State Forest, and a short distance to the south, Pikes Peak State Park. There are also a number of state-owned wildlife management areas, such as the one at Sny Magill Creek, where Clayton County also maintains a county park.