This is my family a couple of years before we moved south, my older sis stayed in New York.
From December of 1961 until December of 1989 I lived in Alabama and Mississippi. I was not born there, and the ways of the south were introduced to me suddenly at a very sensitive stage in my process of maturity. Last night at a viewing of The Help, based on Kathryn Stocketts novel, I felt as if I had been transported back into my past through the eyes of Skeeter, the college grad writing about life from the maids point of view.
The book could not have been written in that era, no one would have responded, but by creating that concept we are allowed to see firsthand the effects of segregation on a culture and how deeply hypocrisy and hatred can be hidden behind the beautiful faces of those young Junior League mothers in Jackson Mississippi.
Filmed in small town Greenwood and in parts of Jackson, it captured so accurately my four plus years in small town Troy Alabama, and our move to Jackson, Mississippi in 1965. The march in Selma, the closing of the city pools, the separate but equal lifestyle, the forced desegregation of the schools were all a part of my teen years.
The only difference between me and my friends was this, I had not been taught to hate. I was not culturally influenced by the deep traditions of Dixie, and was not of a personality type to jump on the bandwagon of hatred and racism. I joined a church at 13, a white only church, I had no black friends until college, I lived along with the established way of life, but deep in my heart I knew something was deeply wrong down there. The book and movie has powerfully captured a picture of that era.
I recognized street and home scenes in the Belhaven and Meadowbrook area, I recognized Brent’s Drugs where I used to buy Playboy Magazines in my hormonal years. The most powerful images in the movie were the confrontations surrounding the death of Medgar Evers, whose home and widow I would often pass when I worked an Insurance debit in the early 80s for two years. The church going ladies who cooked, cleaned, raised the children of those southern christian ladies, were, in reality living with their enemies and walking in love as best they could while being dehumanized in the major part of their lives at work.
Those years formed me. I loved them, and knew the old south had to change.