WITNESS IN PHILADELPHIA by Florence Mars

WITNESS IN PHILADELPHIA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A native daughter and businesswoman of Philadelphia, Mississippi, recounts what happened in Neshoba County after the 1954 school desegregation decision showed white folks their ""good thing"" was ""coming to an end."" She remembers the formation of the White Citizens Councils, the murder of Emmett Till, the hatred of ""Red Jack"" Kennedy, and particularly the burning of the Mt. Zion church and the disappearance of civil rights workers Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman in June 1964. The FBI arrives. Philadelphia closes ranks in silence; membership in the White Knights of the Klan and the Sheriff's auxiliary police force grows to thousands. When Mars tells what she knows of the Klan's reign of terror to the FBI and a federal grand jury, she becomes a target--jailed on trumped up charges, ousted from her church, forced out of business. As indictments in the triple murder case are brought in, dismissed, and brought in again over a four-year period, Mars chronicles events simply, straightforwardly, but with little analysis to increase one's understanding. (She reports without comment that a high officer of the Klan turned FBI informer in disillusion at Klansmen's failure to pay fines for swearing.) Her claims of progress since violence ""ended"" in 1968 seem flimsy: schools were integrated, a factory hired some blacks, her maid quit to earn higher wages at Kentucky Fried Chicken, a racially-mixed group of senior citizens eats hot lunches together. Mars charges that Philadelphians have never fully confronted their responsibility in the case of the civil rights murders, but her book demonstrates, perhaps more clearly than she intended, that the white people of Neshoba County--far from feeling uneasy--have always known exactly what they were doing.

Pub Date: June 25th, 1977
ISBN: 0807115665
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press