Not much has changed in that other Philadelphia

Remember Philadelphia Mississippi, that quaint little Jim Crow town in the deepest of the deep South?

You don’t? Let me refresh your memory . . .

. . .  it had long disfranchised  African Americans and subjected them to racial segregation and Jim Crow laws. Philadelphia in June 1964 was the site of the murders of thee civil right activists: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. . . .

Ku Klux Klan members (including Cecil Ray Price, the deputy sheriff of Neshoba County) released the three young men from jail, took them to an isolated spot, and killed them.

The film, Mississippi Burning tells the whole sordid tale.

Philadelphia changed on the surface, but as the years went on politicians running for office knew its heart was as black as ever. So it was just 14 years later that the most cynical and blatant dog-whistle ever heard from a political figure was delivered to the good folks of that very town. The location, of course, was the statement, as much as the words.

On August 3, 1980, Ronald Reagan gave his first post-convention speech at the Neshoba County Fair after being officially chosen as the Republican nominee for President of the United States. He said, “I believe in states’ rights … I believe we have distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended to be given in the Constitution to that federal establishment.” He went on to promise to “restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them”.[

Philadelphia made a little news again just yesterday.

PHILADELPHIA, Mississippi — Gov. Phil Bryant said Thursday it is “unfortunate” that a predominantly white church in the state wouldn’t allow a black couple to get married in its sanctuary.

. . . The Rev. Stan Weatherford, pastor of the church, married the Wilsons at a predominantly black church nearby. The wedding was moved after some congregants at First Baptist told Weatherford they opposed allowing black people to marry in the church.

“As hard as we work to try to convince the rest of the world that Mississippi has changed — and, in fact, we have — to see an unfortunate situation like that occur is very disappointing,” Bryant said Thursday in response to questions from The Associated Press.

William Faulkner, the most famous literary Son of the South, observed back in the 1950’s, “the past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past.” Yup.

6 responses to “Not much has changed in that other Philadelphia

  1. By an amazing coincidence, I was just discussing this with my son yesterday. What happened there in the 1960s, and Reagan’s speech. I didn’t make the connection with the ummmm, wedding though.

    Timely post. Thanks, as always.


    • It was the air in CT – it sychronized our young brains!

      What does your son think of it all?


      • I think that he doesn’t really believe it. That it isn’t really possible. That it couldn’t really happen today.

        Interestingly, my son is Hispanic, adopted as a baby, and I am sort of pleased and definitely amazed that he doesn’t understand racism. Or that he hasn’t really felt affected by it.


        • I find young women are somewhata disbelieving when I tell them about the institutionalized gender bias when I was growing up. And that is, as our former neighbor Martha would say, ‘a good thing’.


  2. Wow!! How sad. Racism isn’t dead is it?


    • Sadly no. I don’t think it ever will be. I’ve always thought that intermarriage is the best hope for wider tolerance. When your sister in law is black, it’s kind of hard to hold onto old beleifs.


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