In This Issue
By Steve Suitts
Vol. 2, No. 3, 1979, pp. 2
While admittedly too simple, much of the Southern life is still a saga about those two old notions of equality born in public policy during the first brief Reconstruction: the vote and forty acres and a mule. Our December issue brings us up to date on both themes.
Since local and state elections were held in the last twomonths in Mississippi, Birmingham and Atlanta, several authors tell of the political issues and people of those political races. In Ron Casey’s story of the historic election of a Black mayor in Birmingham, we are told that the election pitted the very best and worst symbols of race relations with one another. Black Councilman Dick Arrington won perhaps because Birmingham is still a divided city, willing by 51 percent to make changes.
We have a piece on the Mississippi elections were the political changes are catching up with what has been the facts of life in Mississippi for several years. The meaning and final effects of these changes are not entirely clear; nonetheless, new faces and new hopes are now in office. Also, Boyd Lewis provides us with a brief gothic commentary on the elections in Atlanta.
In all these pieces there are signs of political progress, not born so much out of rapidly changing attitudes among the races although some of those changes have surely occured. It is change brought by changing populations, shifting political alliances and compromises, and perhaps the political choices afforded to Southerners at the polls. Fifteen years after the major civil rights legislation passed Congress, most of us have been seasoned too much by disappointments to offer any clear statement about the economic and social opportuity and potential which will be seized through these elections. Still, on the whole, these are pleasing signs.
While giving some modern surroundings, the issues of economic opportunity and self-help in the Deep South are rooted inthe history of slavery and the once promised freedom of “forty acres and a mule.” Bob Anderson writes with the gift of experience about the accomplishments of organizations in the Delta of Mississippi offering poor Blacks a chance for economic wellbeing. In a companion piece, Bob also expands the dimentions of his article by presenting a broader view of what is happening in the changing struggle for equal rights in the rural South.
Ginny Looney and Duna Norton also contribute to this theme by challenging the prevailing a notion that big farms are needed for the nation’s food production for the economic survival of surrounding communities. In an intriguing twenty-county study in Alabama, the authors not only challenge the assumption that big farms are best but also make the case for the prosperity of rural life may well depend upon Black and White small farmers.
Our department pieces also correspond with our general concerns in this issue by covering the Southern votes on limits to campaign expenses for Congressional races, unemployment in the South, and a day to honor Rosa Parks in Atlanta.
With the tragic events in Greensboro in Novemeber we report on quesions that linger in the aftermath of the worst racial violence in this decade.
Perhaps symbolically, this last issue of 1979 does not offer a clear opinion piece which we usually not in our “Soapbox” department. It is not that we lack opinions — indeed few who know us would venture such an explanation. There is, however, a time when events should be told, analyzed, and then simply left for reflection. As we end this year and foresee another when politics will give us a president to lead the nation and a new census will ascertain our economic and social status, our coverage of political and economic changes is done with the hope that in the new decade there will be a newnewed commitment by many to both reflection and action on the central issues about which opinions have been plentiful and progress has been short.