One Year Later In Mississippi
Ed what is the situation in Natchez right now. Well the last time I was in naturists which was in March of 67 about a month ago I was the mayor of the city of Natchez had come to a meeting of the NE T with the police chief in the Sheriff of the county and this and this follow the bombing of warless Jackson whose former secretary of the NE p. the next branch of the ne s. p.. Mr Jackson had been bombed and killed on February 20 seven thousand nine hundred sixty seven after he had gotten a so-called white man's job it on strong rubber company and matches. We had spent about four months in Natchez in the summer of 1965 in 1965. There have been a symbol of bombing George Metcalf president of the local chapter of the Natchez branch of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People had been bombed
and critically injured Eventually Mr. Metcalf recovered are not this. Sort of unique in Mississippi it's famous for its empty belum homes and every year there's a pilgrimage where many tourists come to Natchez to look at the antebellum homes. Now this is also the center where at least 1965 was the center of Ku Klux Klan activities are both branches of the Ku Klux Klan were there the white knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the United Klan. Because of this there hadn't been any civil rights activity in Naches and in general in the southwest of Mississippi until 65. We went down to not just to shoot a documentary film it was not meant to be a propaganda film but rather somewhat of an objective sociological study of the situation in Naches. We chose not just because naturists hadn't undergone civil rights activity it was a major city. The negro
population are considered to be are very afraid to partake in civil rights activities because of the presence of the Klan. We wanted to find a quiet town where civil rights activity was just beginning in such a way that we could sort of see what impact the civil rights movement would make on a community and how it would change individual negro's images of themselves and what sort of the united political action to ventilate lead to. Was there an atmosphere of racial tension when you arrived there and also when you went. Yeah there was one way of sort of seeing that was the difficulty we had in getting our house we decided to live within the Negro community in great part try and become members of that community in such a way that we could film freely and have access to people without difficulty. Our it took or were about five days to be able to find a house most people were afraid to rent the house under the claim that.
Are most most people are afraid if they continue. Most people were afraid to rent us a house Negro that is because they thought that the Klan would come by one night and throw a bomb in the house. Well eventually we did find a house on the outskirts of the Negro community. The police followed us all the time we were down there though we didn't fight ourselves reporters and filmmakers. Ah. The AH. Since the Civil Rights Movement was initiated. There are many negroes who felt that they could stand up to white people in some ways and not say you know so as they had formerly done and demanded that white acquaintances call them by Mr and Mrs courtesy titles in general. This had caused a certain amount of tension in the town and on the other hand there weren't any incidents of violence. For the first two months we were there.
Why has that just become such a unique situation and where the flare ups are not only violent but become almost spectacular in recent years. Well probably the major reason is the presence of the Ku Klux Klan. Now it's very difficult to find out exactly what the extent of the Klan dominance is. I can give you one rumor. Which comes from fairly reliable sources that are about in 1964 the mayor of the town. Interestingly enough the mayor of Natchez Mayor John Nasr is Lebanese born. It's very strange for Southern town to have a foreign born mayor. Well Mayor John Nasr own this chain of discount stores and he hired a negro cashier. This was in 64 I think pretty much by himself with very little pressure from the Negro community. And supposedly he
saw two of his three sons who were members of the Ku Klux Klan and they had a meeting just two sons included the Klan decided to bomb the mayor's house which they did nobody was injured. And after that the mayor was in certain ways understandably afraid to take any further action in the civil rights area. OK I think we're going to move on now to the only thing that it does produce and what particular problems did you run into when you made the film down there. Well we decided to make a film where our presence would be minimized. So hence we decided that we didn't want to have any interviews in the film nor would there be any scenes that were reconstructed but rather everything was to be shot just as it happened as though we weren't there. This necessitated gaining the trust and friendship of many
members of the Negro community so that we could film at will. This took about three weeks before we were able to film fairly freely. There was also the added problem of certain people being camera conscious. Well the way we overcame that was to make believe we were filming them for long periods of time to eventually they got tired of so speak acting in front of the camera and then would act naturally. Ah ah the problem of the sort of petty police harassment. In general people thought that we were making a fuss that we were civil rights workers and hence they felt duty bound to talk about civil rights when we were present to many explanations to explain that we were interested in was the everyday life of the negro citizen of naturists and only insofar as civil rights naturally came up. We were interested in civil rights. Were there any direct attempts to stop you filming down there at all.
Well well the who. Other than police following us quite a bit and thereby scaring some negroes as well this was the only direct attempt was that one night we received the bomb threat and four negro teenagers stood on the roof all night and protected the house other than that there were no direct threats against us. People would yell names at us white people would yell names at us as we walked down the street and policemen. Well once we didn't have the sound camera out and I was taking still photographs and a policeman came by and said What are you photographing me for I ain't here. You mention the fact that some of the people were camera conscious and it took you quite some time to get them to act naturally. What you did overcome their original inhibitions Did you or should I say do you think you really got a clear cut picture of what is naturist Mississippi. Well I don't think we got a clear cut picture of what Natchez Mississippi is I think what we did do is we
got a clear picture of what the political decision making within the Negro community is like in footage not used in the film Black matches so I think we have a fairly good picture of what the Negro family life is like. And we're planning added another film on that. But in that matches what we are primarily concerned with was how are decisions made within the community with the relationship between the poor negro the middle class negro What's the relationship between the civil rights organizations who are in some sense purporting to represent the various negroes of matches are they would be if there were two civil rights organizations in Natchez that was the NE in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. And this is the Freedom Democratic Party. Call the FPP was an off shoot of snex 1964 Summer Project of Mississippi was a political party
attempting to represent the poor negroes of Mississippi in attempting to institute some sort of Town Meeting democracy to support Tory type of democracy. Their slogan was let the local people decide. The ne s. p.. Instead of appealing directly to the people of the community attempted to work through the negro establishment the negro middle class the negro middle class and southern towns as well as most northern towns mostly comprised of funeral directors small businessmen and ministers. These generally being the only businesses and professions open to negroes. How would you describe the negro political organization there is a very weak. Well this would answer that is to compare 1965 with 967 in 1965 before the bombing of Georgia mid-calf or at most four or five hundred people would come to a meeting after Mr. Metcalf was bombed. About fifteen hundred people would come
to a meeting. Now nine hundred sixty seven. It's not unusual for a protest march to get thirty five hundred of 4000 people out on the streets. And considering that the population of Natchez is around 24000 half of whom are Negroes that's a very very high percentage. The organization is strong in the sense that in a time of crisis it can get very many people out to on the streets during most times it cannot get that many people out also. If you want to describe or should I say to protect what we can expect from the Negro community and not just Mississippi. How would you describe it. Well I think you have to realize that with the Negro community does and I think this is unfortunate is just respond to acts of violence on the part of the white community. Now
that's not to say that there aren't many other projects which don't involve this response but things only really get rolling when there is an act of violence that comes from the white community. So in great great part to predict what happens in the GRO community have to predict what the white community is going to do. Now right now from what I can see the white community doesn't want to have any more violence. I believe that the mayor and the police chief and the sheriff really do desire to apprehend the people who killed Mr. Jackson. I don't know if they'll be successful in doing that and I don't know how well they'll be able to control the Ku Klux Klan but the white establishment right now in Natchez I think is is tired of violence. They are they feel it cuts into business is a very sought and that uses becoming a highly industrialized city. Cuts into the tourist business there were rumors that the naturist pilgrimage in March was going to lose some tourist money because of the bombing. On the other hand the SDP project has disappeared from Natchez so that project I think in great part you could
call it a total failure. Hence the more radical element within the more radical political element in the Negro community is wiped out of naturists and the future of naturists from a civil rights point of view rests very much with what the NWC people do in the belief tends to be much more rap much more rock moderate and up. I think eventually some of the demands that they put to the city will some of the manse have already been met but I think a few more will be met. Though that really make a very great impression on the life of the poor negro basically you'll be very much in the same situation he was before the many of the prestige demands will be met not by prestige demand I mean things like the use of courtesy titles police escorts when you go funerals and things like that as opposed to the gut economic issues. Did you receive any reaction from the NAACP on your filming like mattress. Well I heard that I was in fact the telegram was read to me.
Telegram sent by Roy Wilkins. Criticised black matches. He thought that had painted a very unfair picture of the Negro community. But the I'm sorry of the end of the story Wilkins felt that black naturists gave a very distorted view of how the end P function of the particular criticisms that he made at the unseen ones that can be answered were just manifestly false. He quoted things in the film that didn't exist and misquoted others. In general though the reaction of people who worked in that who have worked in the south is that the film really tells it like it is that it's completely honest and I feel personally that the film is painfully honest and makes criticisms of things I like because I don't think they were carried out well. We worked for a year editing the film and we Mr Newman and myself. Mike the co-producer Mr. Newman had
- One Year Later In Mississippi
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- WGBH Educational Foundation
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- WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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- Filmmaker Ed Pincus discusses the civil rights movement in Natchez, MS, in April 1967, on his return to the city two years after he had made the documentary Black Natchez for National Educational Television. As a center of Ku Klux Klan activity, Natchez, according to Pincus, had not experienced much civil rights activities until 1965 because of fear of violence from the Klan in the African American community. Pincus chose Natchez for his film in order to document the impact of the civil rights movement on a black community. Pincus discusses Klan violence, problems he encountered in making the film, the relationship between the two civil rights organizations working in Natchez, the NAACP and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, increased engagement of the local black community as a response to acts of violence by the Klan, and criticism of the portrayal of the NAACP by that organization?s leader, Roy Wilkins. For information on the Natchez movement, see John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil
- Social Issues
- Community organization--United States; African Americans--Civil rights--History
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Interviewee: Pincus, Ed
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
Production Unit: Radio
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Identifier: 67-3004-00-00-001 (WGBH Item ID)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “One Year Later In Mississippi,” 1967-04-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 22, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-88qc028z.
- MLA: “One Year Later In Mississippi.” 1967-04-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 22, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-88qc028z>.
- APA: One Year Later In Mississippi. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-88qc028z