Get Mad as Hell!
After reading “Indignez-vous!” by Stéphane Hessel [March 7/14], I was compelled to order his French original online. Looking at his photograph, I would never have guessed at his incredible depth and understanding of the world’s unceasing shortcomings. He looks embittered and hardened by his life’s experiences. Obviously, looks are deceiving. His life’s experiences have propelled the man to surpass himself time and time again. The “fight” has not gone out of him at the ripe old age of 93, which makes him practically a superhero. He should be the kind of man youth read about in comic books, admirable in his very tenacity to continue the fight for the universally oppressed. Thank you for making me aware that hope is still alive.
MAXINE de VILLEFRANCHE
I was happy for, and envious of, the French, who have a person with the stature of Stéphane Hessel to call for outrage over the present course of government and to hark back to the Resistance and its members’ vision for society. Where are the American statesmen—in government and public service—who truly have the common good as their vision? Where are the large figures who will denounce our elected officials who serve the corporations and banks? Our middle-class and poorer citizens are bearing the brunt of taxes; who is there to represent us? Where are our statesmen who will sound the cry “No taxation without representation!”? It certainly applies today as much if not more than 235 years ago.
JOHN R. WYSKIEL
We Shall Overcome
Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Contrary to Gary Younge’s “Selling History Short in Mississippi,” the fiftieth anniversary reunion of the Freedom Riders is neither about Governor Haley Barbour nor about people with similar mindsets—those who would rewrite history, losing the truth in the editing [“Beneath the Radar,” March 7/14]. It is about a group of people and their supporters who set in motion, against all odds, a movement that changed the country. When the Freedom Rides began in 1961, Ross Barnett was the governor of Mississippi and John Patterson, the governor of Alabama. Both championed an oppressive way of life for people of color; we confronted them directly on their turf.
Freedom Riders (the term was used interchangeably with “Freedom Fighters” by locals) were divided into two groups—those who rode the buses and the citizens of Alabama, New Orleans, Mississippi and other places who supported, trained and protected the riders. It was the latter group who did whatever they could to assist the riders viciously beaten in Birmingham and Montgomery. People by the hundreds faced angry mobs in Montgomery the night before and the day the riders left for Jackson. It was this latter group who sent riders from Nashville and New Orleans to join the rides in Montgomery. It was this latter group, in New Orleans, who provided training and support for about 40 percent of the riders who went to jail in Jackson. In addition to celebrating the event, the reunion of the Freedom Riders should also be about telling the whole story of the Freedom Rides.
I understand why people might not agree to attend a reception sponsored by Mississippi’s Governor Barbour; however, I do think we should celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Freedom Rides in Jackson. We need to bring the focus back to Mississippi and let the local people who played a role in the Freedom Rides (and their children) speak.