Saturday, May 22, 2010

Graduation Day: Remembering Clyde Kennard

To the Class of 2010, I’m so proud of all of you:

Thank you Calvin for reminding me that it’s that time of year where family graduations abound. It’s hard to believe that at one time “Separate but Equal” was the law of the land. Brown vs. the Board of Education changed all that—sort of. Unfortunately, that “With All Deliberate Speed” clause was just the loop-hole many states needed to continue de jure segregation. Many of us know about James Meredith’s desegregation of the University of Mississippi, (in Oxford) and Richard Holmes’s desegregation of Mississippi State University (in Starkville), but what do you know about Clyde Kennard?

In 1956, 1957, and 1959, Mr. Kennard, a U.S. paratrooper who once served in Germany and Korea and would-be transfer student from the University of Chicago, sought admittance to Mississippi Southern College (now the University of Southern Mississippi). Mississippi Governor James P. Coleman offered Mr. Kennard a quid pro quo: in exchange for paid college tuition, Coleman required him to gain acceptance elsewhere in the state. Proximity to his family’s farm was the deciding factor and Mr. Kennard declined the governor's offer. When further talks still would not dissuade Mr. Kennard, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission sought a lasting solution.

On September 15, 1959, Mr. Kennard was falsely arrested and later convicted of charges of reckless driving. On September 25, 1960, he was rearrested on more false charges: this time, theft. Less than two months later, he was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to seven years in Parchman Penitentiary. In 1961, he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Despite medical recommendations, the prison warden did nothing. By January 1963, Mr. Kennard’s “murder” was imminent and Governor Ross Barnett suspended his sentence indefinitely.

Graduates--with your diplomas in hand, I ask you to remember those who paved the way for you. Remember those despite their best efforts weren't allowed to go the school. Remember those who went to segregated schools. Remember those whose families couldn't afford to send them to school. Most of all, remember those who weren't even given the option to go school.

NB: Upon his release, Mr. Kennard relocated to Chicago. Despite surgeries at the University of Chicago’s Billings Hospital, he would die on July 4, 1963 at the age of 36 years of age.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Fairfield Herald: 1866 - 1871

A reel of microfilmed newspapers was waiting for me at the College of Du Page, my local junior college, thanks to an inter-library loan from the Fairfield County Library in Winnsboro, SC. My goal remains the same: to find the final resting place of Malinda Keith and Samuel Boyd and his parents, Agness and Andrew Boyd, Sr.

I did find several interesting articles, including...historical sketches of Fairfield; a polar expedition to the Arctic Circle; progress reports about flying ships (airplanes!); news of various wars in Europe; and, railroad schedules. No luck yet on those burial locations but that's okay. I was rewarded with an obit for Robert S. Ketchin, a very well-to-do merchant of Fairfield County, SC.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Emmett Till's Ties To Starkville?

It seems that Wiley Nash Carthan aka John Carthan, Emmett Till's maternal grandfather, was born in Starkville, MS in 1902. At least that's what the Baltimore Afro-American reported in a February 8, 1969 article upon Mr. Carthan's death.

I figured that with a quick review of census records, I'd be able to substantiate this claim--not! While I did find several Carthans, I was unable to locate a key, older brother named Emmett Carthan, born in 1898, on the 1900 Oktibbeha County census. Furthermore, on September 12, 1918, when Emmit (sic) Carthan registered for the third round World War I Draft Registration, he had removed to Glendora, Tallahatchie County, MS.

As Nash Carthan was born after September 12, 1900, he was not old enough to register. Worst still, I have found them only on the 1930 Census -- in Summit, Cook County, Illinois. I'm not one to give up easily and so I'll keep looking for that Starkville connection.

NB: In 1955, while visiting family in Money, Mississippi, Emmett Till was alledged to have whistled at a white woman. He was forcibly removed from the home of his uncle, Moses Wright. Two days later, his mutilated body was found in the Tallhatchie River. Rest in peace Emmett.

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