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Garrett Bo Garrett Dr.

Carey May 1, 2012 HIS, 330

Away and Back Again


Ever is a long Time gives a narration of the heady days of the Civil Rights movement and the experiences of Ralph Eubanks at the height of the racial tensions and conflicts. Divisions along racial lines and the violence that he experienced in his home state of Mississippi played a great part in his decision to leave. Although the country side in which Eubanks lived was beautiful, lined with peach trees and clover, the circumstances during the struggle for civil rights were too much to bear and eventually he had to make the difficult decision to escape the conditions of the time. The events mentioned in the life of Eubanks mirror the conflicts that affected most of the residents of Mississippi during the fight for civil rights. These dynamics included the forced integration of schools and the intrusive style of the local authorities (Eubanks, 10). There was an organization known as the State Sovereignty Commission which was tasked with spying on state residents with the aim of maintaining the supremacy that the white population held in the state. This organization created an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust even among close neighbors in Mississippi (Eubanks, 32). This period also experienced dreadful events such as the setting ablaze of

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churches and the assassination of civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evans. Eubanks watched all these on television and read newspapers stories even though his father tried to shelter him by moving their home to Northern Mississippi, away from the focal point of the conflict (Eubanks, 43). These traumatic events had a profound effect on how Eubanks viewed Mississippi and his relationship with the state. The forced disintegration was an especially bitter experience as Eubanks came face to face with highly segregationist teachers (Eubanks, 96). The school experience planted the seeds of departure from Mississippi for Eubanks. He left with a resolve never to come back. Curtis Wilkie in his book Dixie also narrates the personal experiences that took place as he grew up in Mississippi. The court decision calling for desegregation happened when he was only fourteen years old, and its consequences would reverberate and have a great influence on his outlook during his university days many years later. The riots that broke out at the University of Mississippi as the institution admitted its first black student, James Meredith, found him at the center of the events (Wilkie, 74). He could not understand how a society that had been founded on the principle of equality could so coldheartedly hold on to contrary practices. The violence that was experienced during the civil rights movement was also a bitter experience for Curtis. Even as a white man, the social upheavals during this period had a massive effect on him as an individual. He was at the center of the freedom riders and many other struggles for civil rights. Although he enjoyed the privileges that were allowed for the white people, he hated the zealous behavior that the white masses displayed towards their fellow black citizens. The violence that followed this struggle was so repulsive to Curtis that in 1969, at the height

Garrett of this struggle, he fled Mississippi for the Northeast promising himself never to return (Wilkie, 196). Eubanks is drawn back to Mississippi by the desire to find out more about the foundations that kept the racial edifice so strong and unrelenting. The book reveals his perpetual conflict about how much he should reveal to his children regarding the history

of black segregation (Eubanks, 112). He is at a loss on whether to reveal the humiliations of racial segregation or the bitterness of the struggle. The declassification of the files that were kept by the State Sovereignty Commission convinces him to go back to Mississippi and find out more about the activities of the segregationist state in addition to the struggles of those who fought to break the chains of it. He is further shocked when he discovers that his parents were actually part of those spied upon by the organization, a factor that feeds into his desire to return to Mississippi (Eubanks, 134). This desire is also intermingled with a deep sense of affection for the place. He is bitter that the beauty of Mississippi is blotted by its bitter historical past. It thus appears that the same force that had made him run away drew him back and in a sense Eubanks had a dire need to reconcile his past with the present. Going over the files was an eye opener for Eubanks, and he had to go back, to find out what in the present remained from the past (Eubanks, 154). Although Wilkie expressed his deep disappointment with his countrymen who fought to maintain white supremacy, he eventually returned to Mississippi. Between the times he left Mississippi and returned, he had travelled the world variously working as a journalist, but his self confessed love for his home state would never allow him to abandon it forever. Although he strongly condemns those who maintained the racist

Garrett policies in Mississippi-the politicians, media, and other state agencies, he does not appreciate those who condemn Mississippi without the experience of having lived in the state (Wilkie, 192). As a native of Mississippi, Wilkie feels an attraction for his home and he has a strong desire to see the changes that have taken place in the Mississippi society since his departure. The decision by both men to return reveals complex feelings about their home states. They were both bitter that the reputation of their home state had been ruined by injustices perpetrated by the state and supported by fellow citizens. However, they

remained with deep feelings that Mississippi was still their childhood home and not even these bitter experiences could erase the sweet memories they had of this place. In the fullness of time, there is a desire by both men to reconcile themselves with their homeland.

Garrett Works Cited Wilkie, C. Dixie: A personal Odyssey through Events that Shaped the Modern South. Simon Schuster Books, 2002.Print Eubanks, W R. Ever Is a Long Time: A Journey into Mississippi's Dark Past, a Memoir. New York: Basic Books, 2005. Print.