Monthly Archive for December, 2010

Happy Holidays!

As our faithful readers have no doubt gathered, we operate on a university schedule, and thus many LCRM staffers and scholars are traveling or otherwise off the wires this time of year. Happy holidays, happy new year, and we’ll see you in 2011!

Mike Wiley’s “Parchman Hour”

This guest post is from Katie O’Brien. Katie earned a BA in Political Science at the McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi and an MA in Environment, Politics, and Globalization from King’s College London.

When I left the theater after watching Mike Wiley’s The Parchman Hour, I was ready to fight for something. I was bolstered by a vision of my own idealized fight, when I could muster a never-heard-before throaty alto and summon my own personal backing band, to articulate my faith in the arrival of justice and to underscore the rawness of the soul at the crack of the whip. Someone else’s soul, that is.

At times, the cast of this documentary play makes the Freedom Riders’ time spent at Parchman Farm, Mississippi’s notorious maximum-security prison, seem like so much fun one might wish to be locked up with them, so that, we too, could tell the tales of our bravery to the next generation. But, as audience members, comfortable in our balcony seats, we are wise. We know the outcome of the struggle. We take no personal risks when we pay five dollars to admire heroes – at least, that’s what we believed when we sat down.

With what the average audience member knows about the civil rights movement, we can imagine the wounds healing quickly, console ourselves with platitudes of struggles overcome, and believe that the 1960s were a time when people, for some reason, just believed the silliest kind of things (Wiley primes us for this before the play even starts with entertaining mid-century cigarette ads).

The Parchman Hour dismisses that naiveté within minutes. The haunting music, the ringing arguments among the riders, the life, the soul, the energy, the flesh-and-blood pulp of bodies on stage–when someone takes a beating, you feel it vibrate in your chest. This is a documentary about real lives, in what feels like real time.

Continue reading ‘Mike Wiley’s “Parchman Hour”’

The Perils of Digitization

From Rolling Stone, the downside of digital sound–strangely enough, it’s impermanence.

Last year, the Beggars Banquet label unearthed the multitrack master recordings of the Cult’s classic 1985 album, Love, for a planned deluxe edition. The LP was an early digital recording, and to the label’s shock, one master was unplayable; the other contained only 80 percent of the album. “That’s the problem with digital,” says Steve Webbon, head archivist of the Beggars Group. “When it goes, it’s just blank. It’s gone.” Read the whole thing.

“Documenting Poverty, Economic Distress and Challenge in North Carolina”

The LCRM Project is pleased to announce that the report, “Documenting Poverty, Economic Distress and Challenge in North Carolina,” is now available to the public in the LCRM online publishing pilot. Written by the UNC’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity for the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the study was published in January 2010. It explores changes, particularly over the last three decades, in population growth and demography, education, poverty, employment, housing, and community development in North Carolina, and it reports systematically on the surprising persistence of severe poverty today. The report had already been online available as a PDF (here and here). But via inclusion in the LCRM pilot, the document has now been opened up for public discussion online. We look forward to your participation in this important conversation.

If you are interested in learning more about poverty in North Carolina and the South, we encourage you to explore the LCRM pilot. Many of the books, journal articles, and conference papers in the collection examine the issue of poverty, its effects on individuals and society, and possible solutions that can address poverty and related societal ills.

Nobel Peace Prize & Civil Rights

Today the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, whose chair at the ceremony in Oslo was empty because he is in prison in China.  The Presentation Speech by Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, is worth studying as a thoughtful and forceful essay on human rights.

In the speech, Jagland reviewed some recent struggles for human rights around the world, expressing the enduring pride of the Nobel Committee in having chosen Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Peace Prize in 1964.

Describing the rights stated in the Chinese constitution , including freedom of speech, the press, and assembly, Jagland insists, “Liu has exercised his civil rights. He has done nothing wrong. He must therefore be released!”

The way that Jagland connects human rights and civil rights and yet distinguishes them from each other merits analysis and discussion.   Continue reading ‘Nobel Peace Prize & Civil Rights’

Universal Human Rights

The rights of human beings are universal – they do not belong to one nation, region or faith.

That’s Barack Obama’s take. But are they? Or are they historically contingent?

Florida Apologizes to Civil Rights Protestors

Florida Governor Charlie Crist, on the heels of his posthumous pardon of The Doors’ Jim Morrison, has issued an official apology to civil rights protesters who were beaten as they tried to desegregate beaches and lunch counters in St. Augustine in the 1960s. Read the article from the Miami Herald here.

Martin Luther King Jr. joined protesters at time as they sought to desegregate St. Augustine as the rigidly segregated city celebrated its 400th anniversary. Florida’s apology is remarkably robust and informed by a sense of history. Not only will the arrest records of civil rights protesters–many of whom were in attendance when the resolution was read-be expunged, but their records will go on display to “forever serve as a living and viable testament to the courage, ideals and bravery during those fateful months.”

Mike Wiley Thinks Outside of the Box

Yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing 300 children at the Frank Porter Graham Elementary School in Chapel Hill watch open-mouthed with surprise as actor-playwright Mike Wiley slowly climbed out of a pine box and told the story of Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who mailed himself from misery in Virginia to freedom in Philadelphia.  Channeling Brown, who toured during his own lifetime telling his story, Wiley took on Brown’s persona and voice—as well as several other personae and voices—to bring the outrageous cruelty and absurdity of slavery to life.   He brought some of the third, fourth, and fifth grade students up on the stage to help at various times, giving them an unforgettable participatory history lesson.

Continue reading ‘Mike Wiley Thinks Outside of the Box’

What on Earth Happened to Cairo, Illinois?

At the end of November a redditor (a user of the site reddit.com) named inkslave found him/herself in Cairo, Illinois. Here’s inkslave’s reaction:

The streets were not just deserted, but decimated. The few intact businesses were surrounded on all sides by the abandoned husks of buildings, including a multi-story brick building downtown that had mostly burned down at some point, and which apparently no one thought needed to be knocked the rest of the way down. Right on the main drag.

Photo from the Cairo Project.

What happened to Cairo? Another redditor had the answer.

Continue reading ‘What on Earth Happened to Cairo, Illinois?’

SNCC at 50: Bruce Hartford

Our latest interview from our Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee 50th Anniversary Conference interviewing project is up! We spoke to Bruce Hartford, a lifelong activist who left California for Mississippi and Alabama, where he joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in their efforts to desegregate schools and register voters. Hartford’s interview is one of many that emphasize the passion of civil rights organizers and the grueling strain of facing down violent segregationists day after day.

Bruce Hartford from Southern Oral History Program on Vimeo.