Mississippi June

(msnbcmedia4.msn.com)
(msnbcmedia4.msn.com)

By: Wayne Brown

 

It was June 21st in the humid, hot summer of ‘64

Mississippi was ablaze in the midst of civil rights war

Freedom Summer, the theme; voter registration the goal

As young people came southward, activist was their role

 

 

On a Neshoba County road rode two whites and one black

Headin’ down to Lucedale to view a burnt out church tract

Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, the names of the three

Soon to gain fame as they are killed in the land of the free

 

 

The deputy stopped their station wagon; took them all to jail

They did not get phone calls; their presence no one would tell

Held until the late evening and then out the door with a push

They drove off to home not knowing of the coming ambush

 

 

Headlights on the dark road in a line of trailing cars

Taken to the deep woods where trees hide the stars

One by one their cursed and shot; dead by bullets slam

Then their carted off and buried in a fresh pond dam

 

 

For weeks and weeks a torrid search; not one clue was found

The bodies lay in the red dirt buried deeply in the ground

Too many men knew the secret; many spoke proudly aloud

Soon the discovered bodies lying there in that pond shroud

 

 

The outrage of such hideous act was heard both far and wide

For the moment, both black and white, stood on the same side

What cowards could do such a heinous act, just killers in fear

Taking away three young men from their families oh so dear

 

 

Forty-one years past before justice came to visit this case

Forty-one years, worn on all of the white southern face

A handful of evil men wanting to make an example

Damaged the south, and the damage was ever ample

 

 

All these years later, we have come a long, long way

On the lives of three men, a price far too high to pay

A price paid for equality; a price paid only to begin

All know in the south, it must never happen again

 

 

©Copyright WBrown2010. All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

More by this Author


Comments 37 comments

American Romance profile image

American Romance 6 years ago from America

Preach it Wayne!


bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

I was a young teen when this happened, but I remember it well. Well done Wayne!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@American Romance....thanks AR...I appreciate the read and the comment. WB

@bayoulady...Yes, I was 16 and live about 30 miles from the incident. I remember seeing busloads of Navy personnel from the base near Meridian who combed the bardithes one by one for the bodies. It was not a good time but it was a time I will never forget. Thanks for the read and the good comments! WB


SilverGenes 6 years ago

Very powerful poem, Wayne. I played the video and read it again and all I can say is well done!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@SilverGenes...tough subject. I almost quit it before I got started but it was a big event in my younger days and I was compelled to write about it. I grew up about 30 miles from that pond dam. It was a high tension summer and a summer of change. Thanks for the read and good comments! WB


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas

Very sad Wayne I remember reading about this long ago and it still infuriates me. Wasn't the movie about this incident called Mississippi Burning or something like that? Great job. Cheers.


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV

Wayne,

Your verse recalls a dark time in the history of our country, but thank you for it's writing.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@ladyjane1...that is correct, the movie starred Gene Hackman as one of the FBI agents investigating it. This was an act of fanaticism much akin to the mindset that we see in some of the terrorist of today. Unfortunately, at face value, it became the face of Mississippi for a long time and a lot of good folks lived under the stigma that it created. My family for one. Fear drives men to do some really terrible things and this is one example. Thanks for the read and good comments! WB

@Tom Whitworth...Yes Tom, it was a dark time, so dark in fact I almost dropped this one as soon as I started it because it brought back a lot of bad vibrations of that day. I grew up in the midst of it and saw a majority of the public, both black and white, caught in the silence of the surround violence and shameful acts. Many, many good people on both sides of this equation suffered and hurt for many years as a result of this terrible act. Thank you for the read and the comments! WB


samiaali profile image

samiaali 6 years ago

A haunting account of a terrible act. You wrote it beautifully - we should never forget. Thank you.


TimBryce 6 years ago

Wayne -

It's hard to imagine this sort of thing going on in 2010; then again, it was hard to imagine back in 1964. At the time, I was in school in Connecticut and the people in the north simply couldn't comprehend this crime.

Good job.

All the Best,

Tim


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

Wayne, I remember it well. My father lined us kids up in front of the news and we watched and he followed up with a "daddy talk" on the hate and what the Bible had to say about it. He was good about that sort of thing. It left a mark on me as I suppose it did most folks. The video of John Lee was great and I added it to my favorites to follow along and learn the riffs he used, they were featured enough a feller can pick them up, thanks, 50


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Wayne, I remember this but not real well. Forty years is a long time to wait for justice but at least it came. You did a good job telling the story.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

I remember this quite well. You did a fine job telling the story., but then you always do! Thumbs up!


sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

It seems you're getting comments from all over the country from those of us who remember, and we remember because it was so horrifying. Your poem brings back so many of the feelings we had. Glad you wrote it.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@samiaali...Yes, it was a haunting act, almost surreal living that close to it at 16 years old. I think this was the first time that I registered real violence in my life. I also had an ESP experience along with it but that's another story! Thanks for the read! WB

@TimBryce...Even at my young age at the time, it was inconceiveable to me. I will always have that image in my head of all those Navy personnel in the gray buses conducting searches all over the area. In the story line of "Mississippi Burning", there was plenty of artistic license taken but the element portrayed of people being afraid to talk and tell what they knew or thought was very real. A crime like that strikes fear in everyone.

@50Caliber...your father was a wise man 50. I wanted just the right video for effect. It took longer to find the video than it did to write the poem. I hope they go together well. As ugly as these crimes are, we should never forget them so men like that will not take such actions ever again. Thanks for the read and good comments! WB

@Pamela99...this incident was one of the crowning moments in the civil rights era. The Rosa Parks incident, the Selma Alabama marches, this crime, and the slaying of Dr. King create a picture of some troubled times in the south. Martin Luther King probably did more to keep the situation from absolutely getting out of hand than any single individual. A lot of stereotyping came out of that era...some accurate, some not. Thankfully, we moved to what I would hope is a better day in America. WB

@Breakfastpop...Thank you Poppy. This one was difficult for me to put into words effectively. I was afraid that I could not do it justice. Glad you think it worked. WB


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@sheila b....Thank you! Yes, the comments are broad and I like that. It was not my intent to hurt any feelings or to create controversy. I just thought it was worthwhile to remember these three young men tried to do something they saw as the right thing to do and they paid the ultimate price for it due to the fears and ignorance of a small group of people willing to perpetrate such a heinous act. Thanks for the read and the comments! WB


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

Beautiful poem and what a tribute to such a tragedy. Sometimes it is difficult for me to believe we are actually of the same country when you remember some of the atrocities that we've done throughout our country's history - to people of our own nation. But then the War of 1812 is 200 years old as well and I think to myself that that is very few years indeed to have passed as well. All the things that this country has been through in terms of racism make you wonder how can we forgive ourselves for letting that happen? The people who wanted a better future and believed in 'freedom'. I hope we can learn eventually to practice what we preach and we have learned something from all these terrible screw-ups that we've done. Wonderfully done though and again, it is good to remember those 3 poor young men.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@akirchner...human nature at its rawest and most ignorant is an ugly thing. It's almost totally instinctive and quickly makes movies like "Deliverance" quite believable. People who would commit such an act live in a very small world and they can see all the edges of it. They actually think they can control it with brute force. They are still out there too. Not the same ones but those were have been raised in the same mindset by poisoned minds willing to shed the blood of others without a thought to control their universe. I cannot imagine these three young men could have ever conceived how much danger they were exposed to from the start. They had walked into a literal powder keg that was already on the verge of exploding. The acts were slowing escalating all the time and it could only lead to one place. Unfortunately, the law enforcement of the county was as guilty as anyone else involved. They may not have pulled the trigger but they made it possible for this to occur by orchestrating the ambush. It was an act of cowards. Thanks for the read and your good comments. WB


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

I find that so much of violence is the work of cowards. Not to belabor the point, I had a stepfather who thought to control me with his fists. Today, he would have been locked up but at the time, it was a hard thing to endure without any 'protection' - from family, friends or 'society'. Not the same thing as these poor young men by any means, but my point being, I realize that there are people that just can't live any other way except to bully others and to somehow try and make themselves feel bigger. It is a sad state of mind to me but even in the case of my stepfather, I can see how he was raised that way and he obviously did not see any way or reason to change. That has always been the saddest thing of all to me. He is still married to my mom and I still see him - and he is still just as mean and ugly after all those years. I can only feel pity though for someone who has never seen the magnitude of change that is possible and being someone you WANT to be instead of who you THINK you should be/need to be. That may be simplifying way too much but I believe it with all my heart. People can make a difference and they can change circumstances just by speaking out and taking a stand - or not looking the other way. Good piece though Wayne and sorry I babble on like the proverbial brook! I should have been named Brook!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@akirchner...No problem. I like the commentary and discussion. Ignorance dies a slow,slow death and change comes with it. Ignorance and incest yield hideous things,both products of in-breeding of a sort. Ignorance feeds off itself and expands expontentially when no greater knowledge is inserted into the mix. In the south, a lot of people grew up hard and in some lean times in post Depression America. That poverty extended right up through World War II and the world as these people knew it stood still in many ways. In my childhood, I witness many great relationships between whites and blacks and saw the respect they had for each other. Those were the pictures that never seem to make any headlines. Those were the people caught up in this war of wills that led down a ugly path. Ignorance does not alway connotate violence nor does it always mean the person suffering from it intends to hurt anyone. Some are living life, much like your stepfather, in the way they were taught it, by example. Those habits, customs, traditions, whatever they may be called die ever so slow in a culture even though they are bad. I remember my first visits to the local courthouse. I remember seeing the "colored restroom" signs, the "colored water fountain"...those things registered in my mind but at the time, my mind had nothing to weigh them with...they were signs that had been there for my whole life. I had never heard anyone say they were wrong...I was ignorant of any other way. Some people live and die like that and they leave others to continue in that fashion. Ignorance dies a slow, slow death. Thanks for the comments! WB


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

The evil that lingers in a man's heart and hatred towards his fellow man never fails to astound me. These were two whites and one black man. What was the point of killing these men? was it to set an example of power or to say that white men should not mix with a black man? It was senseless murder taking the lives of these three innocents.

I am glad that justice came swift even though it took so long, these cowards needed to swing from a rope, what happened to them? were they put in prison for life, I sure hope so.

The video is excellent and I enjoyed his mellow smooth voice and his riffs.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@saddlerider1...Ken, the justice achieved fell far short of the crime. Over the years, various people like the sheriff and deputy sheriff along with others were ferreted out and tried for less charges and some did serve some time. In 2005, a man named Edgar Ray Killens was tried and convicted as being the mastermind behind it. He was sent off to prison where he will die but he was well into his 70's and in poor health when the conviction took place. In actuality, there is no justice to balance this crime. I suppose justice is served by so many people in that area having to bear the burden and guilt of such a crime. You can learn more of this story by watching the movie, "Mississippi Burning" with Gene Hackman and there is an outline of the story in Wikipedia if you search it on Google. Thanks for the great comments. WB


James McV Sailor profile image

James McV Sailor 6 years ago from Northern California

Wayne.... a well told story and one that we should be reminded of at times to keep a proper perspective. I think sometimes, however that our perspective is tainted by too much compassion for the perpetrators of such horrendous crimes. We have a tendency to give them some benefit of doubt by trying to explain their cruelty as the result of some fear or ignorance, as if they were not really at fault..... perhaps the "foot soilders" can be afforded this sympathy, perhaps they are ignorant and easily swayed, but for the leaders, the instigators, I think it is rarely anything other than greed and power that drives them, and no excuse can overshadow that. Unfortunately it appears to be a human condition and one that continues still around the world. As you point out, the question, and the lesson to be learned, is WHY (?), but we need to search beyond the teleological answer; sometimes it is just a dark and ugly truth, sometimes its just BAD people. JM


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@James McV Sailor...Thanks for the reading and your good comments. My point, having grown up in the midst of it, is to say that ignorance robs people of their choices or their ability to appreciate them. In this instance, the domain over which these ugly people ruled was so small I am not sure there was a discernible difference between the intelligence of those at the front of the line and those at the back. I think, in this case, "instinct" ruled the mind over every other ability. That's not to make an excuse for the crime, it is simply to offer some basis on which to percieve how people can be this way. We can look at things on a much broader scale world-wide and seen the same type of thing happening where one human being slays another who is without defense and basically helpless...it is a "learned" that is promulgated by generational ignorance that changes little from the father to the son, due in part, because are so few outside influences that come in or are even let into the environment that might have a chance to change it. But ultimately it all adds up to, as you point out, "BAD PEOPLE". Thanks again for the visit. WB


blake4d profile image

blake4d 6 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

John Lee Hooker, now there is a musician. Good taste in tunes on this one WB. Loving it. Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@blake4d...It seemed like the most appropriate music for this story! Thanks for the comments! WB


epigramman profile image

epigramman 6 years ago

..as CAPTAIN BEEFHEART would say - MAN CAN WRITE!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@epigramman...wooo! I wish Mr. Van Vliet would notice my work enough to have such an opinion! LOL! Thanks for the vote of confidence, Colin! WB


rahul0324 profile image

rahul0324 4 years ago from Gurgaon, India

Now this may be a past incident but when I read about it in the words you have put here WB... I feel the situation of the states about that time...

The insecurity, the fear ... I believe consequently on both sides... must have been harsh to bear with...

Me being an outsider can connect to this piece of writing so profoundly... Such evils reside in the realms of man... when they come to light in their most dire ways... they cast a fearsome storm in the minds of many...

I dream things like these cease to an end.... but then there are selfish beings who will yearn to kill my dream for their unjust bucks


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia

Absolutely fantastic poem. You are a gifted with the pen! Now, I'm taking a look at more of your work. So glad Rahual shared this one. Well done!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@rahul0324...It was a very difficult time in the south for the majority of whites and blacks caught in between the violence and acting out of a fear...driven by fear and ignorance. In the end, there were no winners but much destruction and death. In the end, the federal government stepped in and penalized all parties with their actions. Far too many in the south on both sides were left with one question, "What happened?"

@Cyndi10...Thank you! I have around 300 poems here plus other things so I am sure you can find some things to your liking...I would hope. The inspiration for this one came easy because I lived it and witness the ugliness of this terrible act...one human killing another out of fear and ignorance. WB


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Dear Wayne,

I also thank rahul for sharing this work of yours... having seen the movie, I was aware of the atrocities of this event in history.

Your words are expressively powerful and visual. I pray we have come further through the years, although some days I truly have my doubts.

Voted UP & Useful and Interesting. Thank you, Maria


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@marcoujor...Thank you, Maria. I wrote this piece a year ago as my mind fell back to those times. Like you, I pray that we have come a long way since then. The sad reality is that "racism" as a concept will always be alive because some people make money off of it just as they do with "environmentalism". Those people will always be stirring the pot and looking for opportunities on which to attach the label each time. While the racial side is an ugly one, it really does not speak to the real problem facing black Americans and that is "blacks killing blacks"...something which occurs all too frequently for every reason but racism. That problem is always overshadowed by the occurrence of incidents on which the racism label can be assigned. The media gets much of the blame in that they will always grab at sensationalism as opposed to factual work. In that process, innocent bystanders get hurt in all races. WB


rahul0324 profile image

rahul0324 4 years ago from Gurgaon, India

Although I have read it once... I come back and remind my self of some of the tragic events which have shaped our history over the years.....

This war... in the states is one such grave period.... the remains and ruins of which are difficult to eradicate...

Great hub WB


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@rahul0324...Ignorance is very difficult to eradicate...it takes decades of education. Bigotry takes even more and may not even be possible. Societies subsist with a closed level of knowledge that continues to "in-breed" upon itself driven by fear. No man should have to fear another or kneel down before him...that is the world that we must seek. Thanks much! WB


bac2basics profile image

bac2basics 4 years ago from Spain

Hi Wayne. Wow, powerful stuff indeed. I am not American but do remember seeing a film about this killing. Racism and bigotry will never be eradicated as you said yourself..why can´t we humans develop more understanding and tolerance...we all live in the one world after all. voted this up as awesome.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@bac2basics...Left to our own desires, I believe that most of us could achieve that plateau. Here in America, we have some angry young black men who quit listening to anyone but Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton years ago. Across the aisle, we have white men who have been raised on the teachings of ignorance and continue to perpetuate it to their children. The rest of us seem to fall victim to the actions of these two sects. Neither will ever learn anything because they quit listening thinking they knew it all long, long ago. The only people who affect them are those who employ their anger and bigotry to motivate them to act. In some ways, that behavior is and has been in the genes of mankind for all eternity. God can make evil resident in a man but he has the expectation that man will overcome it and step away. Human beings don't always live up to those expectations sadly. Thanks much for your good words and comment. WB

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working