Memories of the Ku Klux Klan in my
childhood town of Philadelphia, Mississippi

by Annie Rush Holdt

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My earliest memories of Mississippi are clear-cut and engraved in my mind. Fleeting memories loom up and are re-submerged......like the intense hunger I knew during my first  4 living years .....or like the time I was savagely bitten by a German police dog whose white owner "set" him on me when I was returning from school. I was about 6 then. Indeed, school and these ugly memories go hand in hand. Or take the time a pack of whites attacked the black kids, who had to pass thru their neighborhoods to and from the black school. These attacks became such an amusing sport for the young toughs and their elders that at times we on the slum side of town would all get together to design strategies for dealing with these unprovoked attacks. We had a big battle with the whites using rocks, bricks and bottles, but at one point their dogs were called and we all took to our heels seeing behind us some of our less fortunate brothers and sisters being massacred.

I especially recall two of these toughs whom we hated more than anybody. That was the roper boys, Jim Bailey and Billy Wayne Posey, who lived down the road from us. In those days the town was not as segregated as now.
Jim Bailey in particular, my twin sister and I would beat systematically, thoroughly - mainly because he lived closest to us and was the most provocative. It took two of us to do it - we were only about 9 and he must have been 14. In fact my sister recently speculated as to whether he was deeply scarred by the disgrace of being "whipped by 2 nigger gals" much younger than himself, and that this trauma may have caused him to participate in the lynching some years later of the 3 civil rights
workers from up north who came down to help giving the negroes voting rights.

In any case both he and Billy Wayne Posey - who is seen in this photo from the trial - later joined the Ku Klux Klan and apparently one of them was among the triggermen, who executed the 3 young men after they had been jailed by our hated sheriff Rainey. In this photo Rainey and his deputy sheriff are laughing in the courtroom at their indictments although they had just helped in the murder. They knew that the Mississippi courts would let them off. Here the deputy sheriff is with one of the bodies he just killed pretending he knew nothing. At the same time the Klan had a campaign of terror bombing both houses and churches of blacks. After federal intervention some of the Klan people were finally sentenced to minimal prison terms, but today they are all out again. Recently, when my mother was shot to death in Chicago, I was back in Mississippi for the first time in ten years to attend my mothers funeral and I realized that it had not changed much at all. The whites in town still hated and resented me remembering that I was the
first black in town to use the white library. The day after the funeral I was threatened and had to flee again - and this time I am never going back again.


Annie's remaining family in Philadelphia today



 

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