tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 27: the post-Civil Rights edition

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a usually weekly but not always, sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.


The carving of Stone Mountain completed, 1972

excerpt: “The Confederate Memorial Carving depicts three Southern heroes of the Civil War: Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. The figures measure 90 by 190 feet, surrounded by a carved surface that covers three acres, it is larger than a football field – the largest relief sculpture in the world. The carving is recessed 42 feet into the mountain. Work on the Carving began in 1915 and was completed in 1972.

George Wallace’s “apology,” January 1979

excerpt: “Yesterday, in a wide‐ranging interview, Mr. Wallace veered even closer to public apology for his resistance to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, saying that racial killings in Alabama during his three terms as Governor ‘broke my heart.'”

“The 1981 Lynching that Bankrupted an Alabama KKK” on history.com

Sometimes called “the last lynching,” Michael Donald’s death at the hands of two Ku Klux Klansmen was a heinous latter-day event in Civil Rights history. Donald was accosted at random by his killers who sought make a statement with their actions. After he was killed, his body was tied to a tree in downtown Mobile, Alabama. The two KKK members were soon identified, tried, and convicted, and a successful civil lawsuit against the Klan followed. Among the accounts are the books Thirteen Loops and The Lynching.

Civil Rights films of the 1980s and ’90s

While there were movies about the then-recent Civil Rights movement made in the 1970s, subsequent decades saw a series of prominent dramas based on real events, like Mississippi Burning (1988), Long Walk Home (1990), and Ghosts of Mississippi (1996). For many GenX Southerners whose elders didn’t or wouldn’t discuss those difficult events, the films were glimpses into what happened to shape the society we experienced as children.

“Drowning” by Hootie and the Blowfish, 1994

Though the band is often associated with sing-along Southern college-rock, its platinum-selling debut album contained the song “Drowning,” which was a direct attack on racists and the Confederate flag. With lyrics like “tired of hearing this shit about ‘heritage, not hate'” and allusions to white people telling black people to “go back to Africa,” the song was not exactly “Hold My Hand.” Of course, it didn’t exactly get the same amount of radio play either.

excerpt: “After a 21-year court fight, the state of Mississippi today unsealed more than 124,000 pages of secret files from a state agency [the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission] that used spy tactics, intimidation, false imprisonment, jury tampering and other illegal methods to thwart the activities of civil rights workers during the 1950’s, 60’s and early 70’s.”


level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews) and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.

Generation X Deep South

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 24

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a usually weekly but not always, sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.


A teachers strike in Mississippi, 1985

excerpt: “Walkouts of teachers closed all schools in Petal and Purvis Counties and many schools in Covington County, all in rural areas of south Mississippi. Some 250 of 370 teachers in the Hattiesburg Municipal School District also picketed schools, but classrooms were kept open by use of substitutes and even bus drivers.”

SR-71 plane towed down the highway in Warner Robins, Georgia, 1990

excerpt: “According to HABU.org, the SR-71 seen in the photo – serial number 17958 – was retired in early 1990 and flown to Robins Air Force Base to be decommissioned and placed in the base’s Museum of Aviation. To get it from the hangar to the museum, however, it had to be towed, apparently down U.S. 129, the only four-lane highway we see in the area.”

Deep South Wrestling, 1987

Monsters of Rock in Memphis, Tennessee, 1988

In the summer of 1988, Metallica, Van Halen, Scorpions, Dokken, and Kingdom Come came to play in Memphis.

Sid Vicious in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1978

When you think of Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the late ’70s, I seriously doubt if you picture Sid Vicious, bassist for the Sex Pistols, reading a MAD magazine. But here it is.


level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews) and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.

1980s Montgomery: Remembered and Now Considered

by Adrienne Gaines

Born in the late 1970s, most of my childhood memories come from the 1980s, and are those of a white girl who lived this decade mostly in Montgomery, Alabama. I grew up in a nuclear family of four – my married parents, my older sister, and me – in a middle-class neighborhood, where there was stability of location, family, school, and friends.  We kept in touch with extended family through traditions around holidays.  My father, the “breadwinner,” and my mother, a stay-at-home mom, were not the helicopter parents of today. My sister and I attended the neighborhood public elementary school.  My parents created a laid-back environment where my sister and I knew it was safe to try new things, to dream big, and to believe in ourselves. 

Home was open windows and attic fans, eating cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas straight from the backyard garden, and a playhouse crafted on stilts from an old tin shed. I remember the magic of fire flies, and that one of the best places for hiding Easter eggs was in Granddaddy’s iris blooms. Every season, except summer, passed by quickly, with many Christmases spent in shorts.  I remember sitting in school hallways with a book over my head for countless tornado drills and warnings, and yet I don’t recall being scared.  I remember huge annual family reunions, where we were all smashed into a great aunt’s home with the best homemade food. Church was Sunday mornings, VBS in the summer, and children’s musicals at Easter and Christmas.  I remember the bench front seats in our truck and car where I learned to steer and shift gears long before I was near driving age. I remember family vacations with well-packed coolers for food on the road, and pull-out couches, guest rooms, or a tent instead of a hotel. I remember being proud when I could out climb, out run, or out strategize a boy who had challenged me just because “I was a girl.” I remember the freedom to roam untethered, with only the streetlights to call me home.  I remember country music on the radio and folk music on the record player, and Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, and The Cosby Show, Cheers, and M*A*S*H reruns on TV. I remember seeing E.T. at the drive-in movie. I remember Ronald Reagan, the Challenger explosion, and the end of the Cold War. 

1980s Montgomery was not only mine but also Mayor Folmar’s city, with an implied “no questions asked” attitude. The ongoing shift to the city’s east, which began in the 1970s, continued. That white flight then enhanced the need for majority/minority busing of kids across the city to ensure public schools were “diverse” and “equitable” because neighborhoods still weren’t. Without school uniforms, clothes and school supplies indicated status; there was no way of hiding from it. And while there may have been diversity in our schools, it was rarely in our neighborhoods and never at our churches. 

I know now about the missed opportunities for learning in the places where movements happened, right here, within minutes of my home. The collective “we” now says that my past freedom to roam no longer exists, but as an adult, I know it existed in large part for me because of my skin and nature of my city.  There were school-condoned spankings by teachers and administrators to which my adult self draws similarities to the “law and order” ideal growing stronger and to the systematic injustices in politics and the criminal justice system.  

I remember all of this with appreciation and now deeply consider what it was in retrospect.  Today, I am a full-fledged adult in a middle-class neighborhood, married with my own two children. Although my childhood memories still bring me joy, they also contain realizations of just how much wasn’t discussed or disclosed in a place full of misrepresented history. My memories are filtered through a child’s eyes, and those are wonderful. However, my adult eyes see and my adult mind knows what wasn’t clear to the child’s eyes, and why it matters.  This is what it means to grow up: to see wider perspectives, understand the causes and effects, dig deeper into the whys and hows. 

1980s Montgomery is now considered history. In some ways, I feel robbed, as if I lived that decade in the haze of a lie— a decade that promised safety, security, and prosperity, but was actually playing pretend.  It is the universal pretending by the adults of 1980s, in Montgomery, in Alabama, and in the nation, that are what I now contemplate . . . pretending that issues were a thing of the past, pretending that we had all moved on, pretending there was no need for “those” conversations. I am thankful that my part in that pretending is over, that I can look back on childhood, and, while being thankful, still be open to the reality of what it actually was.

——

Adrienne Gaines was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, with a few childhood years also spent in Autaugaville, Alabama.  She has recently discovered an outlet in writing.