Journalists today, covering man’s inhumanity against his fellow man, reminds us of the forced immigration of black people from Africa years ago, and now the immigration story of Mexicans and others from Central America.
The brutal and massive immigrant raids recently in Mississippi against so-called illegal immigrants from below our southern border, brings back another historic brutal immigration act in that state in the deep South — the inhuman importation of black people forced from Africa to the shores of the United States for the purpose of slavery.
History is very clear concerning the inhuman treatment of black people in Mississippi, as well as much of the so-called southern belt of states. The black people were made slaves and treated in a manner less than human. Lynching and killing of black people — mostly men — was rampant and “legal.”
The situation didn’t change until the Emmitt Till trial in 1955, when two white men were arrested and put on “Trial” for the slaying of the 14-year-old black boy from Chicago. Of course, the jury of all-white men found the pair innocent. Journalists were kept busy on this national and international story. After the Till trial came along Autherine Lucy, a black University of Alabama student who was kicked out of school for being other than white. Then in 1956 a black woman named Rosa Parks was kicked off a Montgomery, Alabama bus for refusing to give up her seat to a white man. Quickly following was a black preacher — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — who kicked off the Civil Rights Movement to highlight the treatment of black people in this country. King was later — 1968 — assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee for his beliefs. We also remember the picture of a beaten James Meredith lying in a narrow Mississippi roadway. There were riots in the Tennessee towns of Oliver Springs and Clinton, and then the battle in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Journalists today have their hands and computers busy covering an ever-spreading story on the mass killings of people across the country. We have attacks on Mexican immigrants — and others — who came to this country to escape brutality and prejudice in their native lands. They, like all of us, wanted security and freedom to be human and a productive part of humanity, and in this so-called “Land of Liberty and opportunity.”
I well remember being in Chicago on the photo desk in the late 1960s when a story came over the city of Chicago’s news service stating that the city had gone a full 24 hours without a shooting death. It was history. Today, shootings, and shooting deaths in Chicago are at historic levels.
It seems that we are constantly, and surprisingly, awakening to mass shootings, in churches, schools and cities. The country’s media has had to learn so many new techniques for coverage, and including how to dodge bullets, a la war.
I know — I covered those early days in the South.
Gene Herrick is a retired Associated Press photojournalist and a Rocky Mount resident.