Although we think of the South as a unified system of repression, it varied. Birmingham, Alabama or New Orleans, Louisiana had very different stories to tell when compared to the isolated region of the Mississippi Delta. One book cannot tell the complete story because each location had its own culture of love, hate, and domination.
There were laws that dictated legally acceptable behaviors, but just as important were the local customs of each area. They weren’t written, but they were known by the people who lived there and were just as powerful as any official code of law. When traveling or moving from one area to another, it was important to learn what was deemed acceptable and to conform. For strangers, it was impossible to know the local social regulations and could result in dangerous or life-threatening situations.
In Silent Ties we get a glimpse of how Sheriff Hosper and a group of men organized a system of ‘watch, intimidate, and threaten’ to control the local population and keep the events of the outside world away from their little town. Silent Ties ends just before the start of the turbulent sixties, but we saw an early introduction to voter registration. We witnessed the passing of a law that required desegregation of schools, but it didn’t impact their lives. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was part of Missy and Addie’s history, but we saw no difference for them. It was a beginning, and the years following that final day in the field would yield many more events that would eventually facilitate change to the southern way of life. The future we didn’t see in Silent Ties was the response to these early protests and movement toward freedom. I like to picture Addie and Henry at the forefront of this change. I imagine Addie gaining the courage to speak, and perhaps allowing us to know her better.
In Ever is a Long Time: A Journey into Mississippi’s Dark Past W. Ralph Eubanks highlights both the time period of Silent Ties, and later events that ushered in change for Black Americans. Growing up in Mississippi, protected and almost isolated in Mount Olive, he returned as an adult to explore the hidden history of his childhood and shone a new light on the people he thought he knew. His was a very different childhood from Anne Moody, highlighted in an earlier blog, and provides an alternative view into the tumultuous history of the segregated South and the evolution of the era of freedom.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana