Category: Mississippi

What ‘The Help’ says about Hollywood

By Alan Bean

The Hollywood adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, opens in theaters this Wednesday.  Critics have been kind.  Evaluated as a good story, The Help is engaging and emotionally satisfying.  But isn’t this another Hollywood racial melodrama in which a noble white person intercedes on behalf of helpless Negroes?

Yes and no.  Civil Rights activists were deeply offended by the 1988 potboiler Mississippi Burning, a civil rights era drama that gave the FBI credit for staring down the KKK in Philadelphia, MS.  Why, critics ask, can’t Hollywood do a civil rights story about black people standing up for black people?  The answer is simple: Hollywood makes movies for a mass audience, and that means creating narratives that appeal to white people.  Sure, you always want to toss in a black guy so black viewers can relate to the story in a modest fashion; but that’s generally as far as it goes. (more…)

Marlowe’s Mississippi

By Alan Bean

Lara Marlowe generally writes for an Irish audience, but when she turns her attention to the American South it is wise to take notice.  American journalists are generally reluctant to address our nation’s racial history honestly and openly; aggrieved southerners wail and lament when they feel mistreated and misunderstood.  Nowhere is this more true than in Mississippi.  But Marlowe’s carefully crafted piece on the Magnolia state draws on the insights of those who know the region best.

Most of the sobering facts cited below will come as no surprise to readers of this blog.  But how many Americans know that the public schools of Mississippi lost half a million white students when the feds finally got serious about school integration in the South?   A recent article in The Christian Century, notes that “only 2 percent of high school seniors could name the social problem that the Supreme Court addressed in Brown v. Board of Education.” (more…)