Throughout the period of segregation there were different sets of laws for different purposes. Federal laws talked about equality for all and the rights of every citizen; however, in the Jim Crow South there was often a qualifier, “For whites only.” Federal laws were ignored, replaced by the state, community, and unwritten laws.
Although Federal laws espoused fair and equal treatment, even their own agencies developed programs that circumvented these laws. Federal aid and agricultural programs which controlled farming promoted help and production on the white-owned farms while limiting assistance and rights to the black farmer. After forcing the black farmer into financial crisis, banks would confiscate the land and sell it to white farmers. There was nowhere for the black farmer to turn.
Another critical area was safety and protection under the law. Throughout the South the status quo was maintained by domination through fear. There were laws against murder, though they did not apply when the perpetrator was white and the victim was black. These violent acts were typically not regarded as crimes, nor were they investigated. There were laws in place to control the blacks and to limit their rights, but there were no laws to protect them.
Silent Ties gives you a glimpse into the unfair practices through the different story lines. We see the unfairness in farming through J.P. controlling the land and sale of all crops. We see a system established by Granddaddy Tucker that provides his son James with a meager existence, his white son with a comfortable living, and we watch J.P. perpetuate that injustice.
We are awakened, just like Missy, to the truth that there is no protection for anyone of color in her town. When Uncle Roy beat the small boy to death we witness a community stand by and watch. The Sheriff sees the atrocity, yet there is no consequence. The death of Tucker James clearly demonstrated there was no justice if you were black. His death did not even warrant an investigation. Again, we see the vulnerability of Addie’s world as we witness the terrifying fear that results from a slow-moving car when Missy finds her walking home alone. It challenges Missy to admit the inequality of their lives, and for a moment see the guilt in her own behavior, but soon Missy is able to put those feelings behind her and forget. However, it is an ever-present reality for Addie.
The book Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody details the reality of the lawful community for some and the lawlessness for others. Her autobiography brings to light the tactics used to repress Black Americans. It highlights a system of fear and intimidation that was at work throughout the Jim Crow South. She shines a light on the program of terror deeply ingrained in the minds of the people. Anne Moody was one of the individuals standing up to the hopelessness. She worked to show people there could be a better life. Read this amazing story. Witness her frustration and her courage as she worked tirelessly to help those around her to believe that change was possible. Gather with your friends to reflect on, and discuss the truth of, Addie’s world as revealed by Anne Moody.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana