Remembering Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman, and too many others

James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and James Goodman were murdered on June 21, 1964, just outside Philadelphia, MS. Tomorrow many people will gather in Philadelphia to mark the anniversary and remember their sacrifice. Later they will all go to a community center a few miles from town, and read out the names of the many people, mostly black, who were murdered with impunity in Mississippi. Some names are famous -- Emmett Till, Vernon Dahmer, Herbert Lee. Many others less so -- John Lee, Adlena Hamlet, Freddie Thomas, and on and on.

Last year, the names were written on crosses and stars, and passed out to those in attendance. Several teenagers read the list of names, one by one, and the circumstances of their deaths. As each name was called, whoever had the respective cross or star stood in front of the assembled crowd, then placed it on display.

What's a discussion about the Freedom Rides, mug shots, women and beauty without a mention of Roland Barthes?

mimi thi nguyen writes:

Originally published in the photo collection Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freed Riders, this archival police photograph of then 19 year-old Freedom Rider Joan Trumpauer Mulholland has been making the rounds. There is much debate about what troubling discourses of race and beauty might be operating in its reception right now, as there should be — the manifold dangers in conflating beauty with truth, or in attributing to whiteness a special heroism, are real and run deep.

But I admit that I keep looking too. Why? I’m reminded of Roland Barthes’s notion of the photograph’s punctum, “that accident [of photographic detail] which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)” (Camera Lucida, of course). For me, it’s the flower on her label catching in its petals the chain from the police identification board hanging around her neck, after her arrest. Evoking both vulnerability and defiance, that “minor” sartorial detail, as Barthes puts it, bruises me, is poignant to me.

How Rick Hertzberg is wrong about Square Books.


Rick Hertzberg went to the Conference for the Book in Oxford, MS, last week and yesterday he posted about his trip. It's all beautifully observed and deftly spun together, as usual, but Hertzberg missteps on one key point.

"Square Books," he writes, "is the best independent bookstore in Mississippi and probably the whole of the South."

OK, I know this is standard invocation one hears whenever Square Books is mentioned, especially in the accounts of how-do-you-say outside observers who have just dipped in and out of Oxford to sample its resurgent glamour.

But trust me on this: Lemuria Books in Jackson is the equal of Square Books in every way, and people should know that. Plus it's four years older than Square, so there.

I will admit to bias, of course, being a Jackson boy and all. I've been hanging out at Lemuria ever since John Evans opened it in 1975. I was a senior in high school and happily spent hours rifling its shelves. It may or may not be true that Geronimo Rex was the first book I bought there, but that's that story I tell.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Square Books. It is indeed a great independent book store. Same as Lemuria.

Which, if you're scoring at home, is two more than Manhattan has.

Really, it's two-and-a-half more than Manhattan, since I should include TurnRow Books in Greenwood, a sort of Lemuria-Square love child that opened a few years back.

Hetrzberg says Square Books is "what puts Oxford over the line." That may well be the case, but it does suggest one way Lemuria may be the better store, or at least more important. Lemuria is what keeps Jackson from sinking beneath the waves.

White Power Ballads: Photographs by Robert W. Kelly

I was googling through the LIfe magazine photo collection at Google, looking for more Freedom Rider photos, when I came across a set of images by staff photographer Robert W. Kelly. The web site says the pictures were taken at a Mississippi Democratic Convention, but there are no other details -- nothing identifying the subjects, the location or the date.

Based on a similar photo by Kelly at Getty Images, I think these were shot at the state Democratic convention in July 1956, ahead of the national Democratic convention the next month, in Chicago.

Kelly shot for Life from 1947 to 1966, and worked out of the Atlanta bureau for much of his time there. He died in 1991, at the age of 71. Obituary:

The full set of convention photos:

The Life collection at Google:

I'm pretty sure the bow-tied speaker above is James Stennis, who represented Mississippi in the Senate from 1947 to 1989.

This is James P. Coleman, who was elected governor of Mississippi in 1956, and was succeeded by Ross Barnett.

Coleman helped create the State Sovereignty Commission in 1956.
I don't know who the other speakers are.