Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Sid Salter: Florence Mars, James Meredith Memoirs Offer Insight Into Troubled South

I have distinct memories of two memorable, inimitable figures from the civil rights era in Mississippi whose lives and experiences are featured in two books published by the University Press of Mississippi, the state’s academic book publishing press, that are now in bookstores or available at upress.state.ms.us.


The first book is “Mississippi Witness: The Photographs of Florence Mars” by James T. Campbell and Elaine Owens (176 pages) and features a collection of Mars’ remarkable photographs that she began taking in the 1950s and continued through the 1964 Ku Klux Klan murders of civil rights activists James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman in Neshoba County.

Second is a new edition of the classic 1966 James Meredith memoir “Three Years in Mississippi” with an introduction to the new edition by Aram Goudsouzian, the noted civil right scholar who chairs the Department of History at the University of Memphis. The book chronicles Meredith’s 1962 integration of Ole Miss and his later 1966 March Against Fear that resulted in him being shot and wounded by a sniper on the second day of the march south of Hernando.

When I think of the late Florence Mars of my hometown of Philadelphia, I think of the small, sharp-tongued woman who wore a little dark Greek fisherman’s cap as she drove around town in an old Volkswagen Beetle. She died in 2006 at the age of 83.

At first blush, Miss Florence was not someone you’d have pegged as one who would stand up to the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1960s in small town Mississippi. She was a white lady born to a patrician family of wealth and means, a family synonymous with commerce, substance and influence.

But that’s exactly what Mars did. She refused to abandon her principles in the face of Ku Klux Klan or Citizens’ Council threats — or worse, to simple peer pressure.

Miss Florence’s innate sense of decency, her progressive social and racial beliefs and her own stubborn determination to live her life on her own terms brought her to feel the dragon’s breath of Klan intimidation back in the 1960s.

What happened to Florence Mars is worthy of remembering. Burly Klansmen who had infiltrated the ranks of Neshoba County law enforcement arrested her on trumped-up alcohol charges during the height of the civil rights era in a blatant attempt to ruin her reputation and to destroy her business interests.

In 1977, Mars wrote the gripping memoir “Witness in Philadelphia” (LSU Press), about her life in Neshoba County and the 1964 Klan murders of civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, giving the world a compelling look inside her community as it struggled to find its soul in the wake of the killings.

My favorite memory from numerous interactions and correspondence with James Meredith over the years came on a Chicago sidewalk outside the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Avenue on July 11, 2013, as part of an event in which the Rainbow PUSH Coalition in Chicago honored players from the 1963 “Game of Change” that pitted Mississippi State University against Loyola University in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Meredith was also honored at the event for his lifetime achievements, but he took time to greet fellow Mississippians from MSU while wearing a blinding white suit and a bright red Ole Miss cap. The anger and intensity that necessarily marked his sojourn in the 1960s gave way to warm, genuine and cordial gentlemen in his later years.

Both books are must reads for those seeking first-person accounts of the atrocities that took place in Mississippi in the past and how far – warts and all – the state has come since those tumultuous days.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

I want to be as respectful as possible, but no one who makes comment on his literary work seems comfortable talking frankly about James Meredith. He is an extraordinary man who did a very courageous thing when most courageous and sane people would have declined. He is also one of the strangest and most confusing flakes you will ever meet. He might go in damn near any direction. But back at the time the movement did not need an average person, it needed a Meredith. With all due respect.

Anonymous said...

Salter is also a very strange flake. He intends to purloin Jerry Mitchell's mantel of Civil-Rights-Laureate-In-Residence.

Rod Knox said...

Some of Mississippi's history was left out of the text books and most Mississippians demand that everyone sticks to the history they were taught.

If we just ignore bleeding heart liberal about past injustice they'll eventually find some other inequity to talk about dontchaknow.

Anonymous said...

It's just crazy how things are these days since those bad old days ended.

Hermit King said...

Rod Knox,

Maybe some of Mississippi's history is left out of the textbooks, but so is a lot of Colonial History.

If we are truly honest with ourselves then we need to include real African and Caribbean history to put everything into context. All the truths that are currently censored. I don't dare mention it here. But the global historical context is easy to find in the Internet age.

The truth will always set you free. And learning African history from pre-colonial to today is exciting as well as eye opening.

Anonymous said...

Mary Ann Welsh was with Florence the night that she was arrested on the trumped up alcohol charge and both were thrown in Jail. If a prominent businessman would not have stepped in, they both probably would have been killed by the Klan. They were coming home from the Neshoba County Fair. I have heard this story many times. Florence was a great lady.

Anonymous said...

11:52 Sticking to the history that one was taught and ignoring past injustice because it is revealed by "bleeding heart liberals" is a sure path to an ignorant society bent on repeating it's mistakes. In order to learn from the past there must be accuracy or the lesson to be learned will be missed. The source of the information is not the point, it's the accuracy that counts.

Anonymous said...

In order to understand the world, you have to understand Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

The story of Florence Mars sounds like it would make a great Hollywood screenplay, perhaps even Oscar-worthy.

Anonymous said...

Right-ON, 5:31! What we really need is another Hollywood movie about racism and murder in Mississippi. It's been a few years and the edge has worn off. We do need a revisited account of our past, don't we? If the narrative isn't grisly enough, the screenwriters can just make shit up, like they've always done.

Salter and Jerry Mitchell can have bit parts. Even Kingfish saying, "Alright, enough of that shit about Jackson. This ain't about Jackson!"

Anonymous said...

April 3, 2019 at 7:50 PM, I hope you never get tired of being reminded that your white supremacist ancestors were on the wrong side of history. Just like Trump supporters are on the wrong side of history today.

Anonymous said...

The Pontificators infest JJ again.

Anonymous said...

"Salter and Jerry Mitchell can have bit parts."

Maybe they could be fictional characters and play assistants to Ira Harkey and Karl Wiesenburg. A few more like either of those gentlemen around today, or if we were lucky, a few like both, and Mississippi would be in a much better place.

Anonymous said...

History is what it is. As (a lot of southerners are) of Irish decent I guess I could want The decendents of those who brought many of my ancestors into America as indentured servents to feel guilt. Should Modern day Texans feel guilt about the occupation of What was Mexico. Should Black Americans feel guilt if their ancestors were of a group who sold their fellow Africans too Dutch slave traders? I could go on and on but it’s History. Recogonize it for what it is and get on with life. A 100 years from now some will want to blame their situation in life on on what someone did to their ancestors today.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if it is accurate, but a recent study claims the last African-born slave was a young girl sold to an Alabama plantation and that she died in 1937. The report I saw made it clear that she wasn't the last slave to pass, only that she was the last born in Africa.

That said, by about 1950 or so, those who were slaves and slave owners were no longer alive. We are now now 150 years in front of slavery and all who had a direct connection are gone. Isn't it about time that the decedents of both the slaves as well as slave owners get past what was a huge mistake on so many levels? If you haven't by now, you likely never will and you and your descendants will continue to suffer for it regardless of your race.

And as an aside to most the "Stars and Bars" crowd, most of your ancestors were poor immigrants who just happened to be white, so being a racist asshole today really makes no sense. The only thing your nonsense upholds is your own misplaced, ill-informed idea of "history." Grow the fuck up, read a book, and at least attempt to learn a little something.

Anonymous said...

10:38 I certainly understand your sentiments if you think too many people want to relive the past, but I hate to see or hear anyone espouse the complete misunderstanding of history and it's significance. Sure, chattel slavery ended several generations ago, but only through accurate examination of it's scope and influence when it did exist can you hope to understand and address the very real consequences it has on people today. Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson. Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt have all been dead for many years but the consequences of their actions have deep influence on our everyday lives. Try to understand it. Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul have been dead over 2000 years but we have enough sense to try and examine their lives because they both STILL have great influence over what you and I do everyday. If you think history dies when people die your brain is the only thing that's really dying.

Messick said...

"wrong side of history"... oh boy, another leftist trope used to silent those with whom they disagree. Another round of name-calling c/o the academy and the media.

History is not to be judged, just as the people of history (y'know... dead folks) are not to be sized up by today's standards.

Example: If you eat red meat today, how will you be judged in 100 years?

Anonymous said...

@Messick

You contradicted your own point. By your own reckoning, Vegans would be on the right side of history, and those who slaughter living creatures for food will be on the wrong side of history.

Trumptards
*rolls eyes*

Messick said...

Anonymous April 4, 2019 at 10:47 AM;

That was the point of my last sentence: Would a self-serving gesture like not eating red meat preserve your reputation long after your passing? Or, would future inhabitants of this earth still find a way to topple your statue, regardless?
It is impossible to know what will set people off in the future, much less how they'll react. By my estimation, it's not worth wasting time attempting to figure that out, given the multitude of responsibilities we, as modern humans, take on day to day.

My other point is that the term "w.s.o.h" is more vitriolic garbage.

AOC 2020 said...

@Messick

Perhaps in 2019 we have advanced enough to consider the ramifications of our actions and how they will affect future generations.

We as a human race have ascended to a cognitive level that allows us to understand the optics of the future and not just live in the present like ignorant apes.

Unfortunately we have a large, but dying number of unevolved luddites (like yourself) who will have to perish before collective ascendancy to true enlightenment can be attained.

Anonymous said...

9:57 and 1:08 Your discussion raises one of the most important distinctions in history and social science. There is a huge difference between remembering
or documenting as opposed to honoring or respecting. History requires the former not the latter.

Anonymous said...

I am sure AOC 2020 is just trolling with that name, but I have to comment. She is 29 (I think). In 2020, she will be 30 to 31, depending on her birth date. Look up the requirements.

That said, I wish she could run. The Trump landside would be equal or greater than Reagan's second victory.....525 to 13. Of course, the left wants to destroy the greatest genius of our founders, the electoral college.

I am so sick of leftist politicians saying we live in a democracy. They are either morons or lying for a reason (to fool the masses). I have a feeling it is some of both and part of the movement to abolish the electoral college. It is scary stuff and the very definition of un-American. They live by the old saying though....'repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.

AOC 2020 said...

@4:33 PM

You are delusional if you actually believe that the constitution is still respected in 2019.

#MIGA

Anonymous said...

10:47 is right. Get your meat at Kroger where no animals suffer.

Anonymous said...

"There is a huge difference between remembering or documenting as opposed to honoring or respecting. History requires the former not the latter."

That's cute, 2:02 - But, memory alone is insufficient and documentation requires accuracy. History should never be modified with time nor based on opinion, regional arrogance and assumption. Massaging history serves no honorable purpose.

Anonymous said...

Anony 9:33, I met and spent part of an afternoon with Mr. Meredith 25 or so years ago and I didn’t find him flakey at all.

While he did do some things that seemed crazy, I think they were designed to prove he knew Dems were using blacks for political purposes only; the same exact reason Dems want open borders today.

Dems don’t give one damned about illegal immigrants. After all, they now support killing babies even after they are born.

Dems are only for open borders because they want those votes; and if those votes would go elsewhere that wall would be long and tall!

There are two main reasons this “history” keeps being brought back up. Money hungry greedy pigs like Sid Salter posing as so-called journalist want clicks, because clicks lead to advert $$$;

and Dems know educated idiot millennials have been brainwashed and have no clue how much race relations progress had been made until Obama split this country into.

So, they use the ½ century old past to divide and conquer/get votes.


The civil war ended and slaves were freed a century and a ½ ago.

The Civil Rights act was passed over ½ a century ago.

Affirmative action over ½ century ago;

JBJ’s Great Society programs paying out God only knows how many trillions of dollars were enacted over ½ a century ago.

There hasn’t been a lynching in Mississippi since 1968 and while racism from all colors, religions, ethnicities, etc. will never totally end, when a racial crime occurs against a minority, the vast, vast, vast majority of Americans want that criminal prosecuted, unlike ½ century ago.

Divide and conquer. It’s an old strategy but it’s working wonders today!

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with race relations? There are those who just will not let the past be in the past. I'm not for forgetting it or minimizing it, but there are those who want to wallow in it. Yes, all those things happened, but let's move on. If blacks and many whites would spend as much time and effort on looking to the future as they do the past, things would be much better. One year ago was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of M.L. King. Memphis made a big deal out of it. Now, one year later they are making a big deal out of the 51st anniversary. Sid Salter is a very intelligent man, but let it go, Sid. We will never make much forward progress if we are constantly looking over our shoulder to see where we've been.

Anonymous said...

7:32....you conveniently leave out the episode two years ago when the kids from Rankin County went for a ride in Hinds specifically to find and run over a black person. And they did. Where do you reckon they learned that type of attitude?

There are plenty of people around who lived through the days when that type of abuse was very common. Yes, they are very old now but they still tell the stories. You can't just act like, "oh well, that was a long time ago". That's like saying, "oh well, WWII was a long time ago, no need to honor it"

Rod Knox said...

Ain't it funny how 50 years is too long to be concerned with honoring the blacks who fought and won some of the rights they were guaranteed by the Constitution and therefore should just shut up and move on while after 150 years Mississippi whites want to rekindle injustices of 'The War of Northern Aggression' and pretend it wasn't fought for slavery despite the declaration of secession spelling it out in plain English.

Anonymous said...

8:28: That wasn't two years ago. More like five. Was that the last and only time in the past ten to twelve years white youth have committed murder in J-town? Who have been the perps the other 99.99999% of the time. You need help with an answer?

Oh, and 4:20 - Educate your ignorant self. Secession and war were two entirely separate things. Although you won't be able to understand that.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

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There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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