The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in the Jim Crow South
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In this gripping saga of race and retribution, Alex Heard (editorial director of Outside magazine) tells a moving and unforgettable story of the deep South that says as much about Mississippi today as it does about the mysteries of the past. In doing so, he evokes the bitter conflicts between black and white, north and south in America.
For the most part, Mitford describes the experience as a romp—“a thrilling adventure” and “a welcome breather from diapers and housework”—but it took real courage to do what she did. She was thirty-three in early 1951, the mother of three young children. Back then, just getting to Mississippi by car from California was a challenge. Setting out on March 5, she and the three other CRC delegates—Louise Hopson and Billie Wachter, both Berkeley housewives, and Evelyn Frieden, a union shop steward in
noncommittally. “Because a lot of people knew. I mean, her friends knew, people that knew him knew it was going on. And when he got caught she screamed rape. That’s just what I’ll always believe. And I don’t believe his soul’s at peace, and I believe he still haunts this place. I don’t care what anybody says.” She wasn’t kidding about the ghost. A custodian told her she saw a shadow one night in a hallway; other people said they heard voices. For this woman, the really spooky thing was the
November 3, 1928. “write and wire”: CRC press release, October 22, 1949, Kaufman papers. 15,000 people: Compass, July 29, 1950. mysterious CRC activity: LLC, July 18, 1950. Ella Fitzgerald: “M.I.S.S.I.S.S.I.P.P.I.,” Music Business, July 1950. Compass series: June 14–19, 1950. the Compass…had a place: NYT, May 2–3, 17, 1949; June 1, 1949. (The Compass debuted in May 1949 and ceased publication in November 1952, NYT, November 4, 1952.) “beginning to boil”: William
32, 87, 309, 337 Palmer, A. Mitchell, 80 Palmer Raids, 190–91 Parchman, 38, 61, 63, 65, 310, 320 Patterson, Haywood, 194–98, 221, 343 Patterson, T. W., 333–34 Patterson, William L., 6, 187–98, 211, 217–18, 221, 227–28, 234, 239–41, 245, 252, 261, 267, 271–73, 288–89, 315, 325, 341–44 as CRC head, 187–98, 239–41, 271–73, 278–81, 342 congressional testimony, 271–73 The Man Who Cried Genocide, 188, 280, 344 Scottsboro case and, 192–98 Patton, Eddie
Joyce, Tom Jurkovich, Christopher Keyes, Hannah McCaughey, Scott and Kathleen Morgan, Justin Nyberg, Stephanie Pearson, Scott and Leah Richardson, Jack Shafer, Grayson Schaffer, Nancy Swenton, Andrew Tilin, Mary Turner, Kent Wells, and Brad Wetzler. Most of all, I thank Jim Leeson, who first told me about Willie McGee and who has offered years of priceless friendship and wisdom, and my wife, Susan, without whose intelligence, encouragement, and love I would have packed it in long ago. About