It wasn’t 90 degrees once this week and I’m taking it as a reason to start decorating for fall. It’s the little things, folks.
This week we’re talking about a woman who influenced how the Civil Rights movement was understood, the possible repercussions of Texas’ abortion ban and Kacey Musgraves. And if that sentence doesn’t encompass what it feels like to process the world as a Southerner, I don’t know what does.
This week’s Your Voice column discusses suicide. Feel free to skip over if that’s not something your brain can handle this week. Take care of yourself.
Meet the Black woman who established Emmett Till’s murder as sparking the Civil Rights Movement
Before the late 1980s, most academics cited the start of the Civil Rights Movement as Rosa Parks’ refusal to vacate her bus seat on Dec. 1, 1955. But 95 days earlier, the death of a 14-year-old boy named Emmett Till was about to shake the movement to life.
Clenora Hudson-Weems, who was a 10-year-old girl in Memphis when Till was murdered in nearby Mississippi, would become the one to establish him as the motivation of the uprising. Her 1988 University of Iowa doctoral dissertation titled “Emmett Louis Till: The Impetus of the Modern Civil Rights Movement” was based on more than 100 interviews with people connected to Till’s story and extensive documentation.
“I was sad when I thought about it as an adult: How could they sweep that under the rug? It was an international cause célèbre back then. How could they forget the impact it had at that moment and forget it ever happened? It was strategically done. It was deliberately swept under the rug,” she said.
Your Voice: Why I will always listen to your story
Each week the Honey newsletter includes a column from women and LGBTQ folks in the South, in collaboration with See Jane Write. We’re always looking for more stories from you. Click here to learn more about how to get published.
By Rebecca Nabors Ledbetter
Ten years ago, I had lunch with a man who had a story he desperately needed to tell, but I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t even really know him. We’d spoken briefly over the phone only to confirm a time and place to meet.
My father’s will had been released from probate and this man was the trustee appointed to handle the logistics of the trust that had been set up for me.
We agreed to meet at a restaurant across the street from where I worked. The day we met it was unusually cold and I remember wishing we could reschedule or conduct our business by phone. Not in the mood for lunch with a stranger, I grudgingly put on my coat and gloves and walked out into the damp frigid air thinking I would order a bowl of soup.
He was already seated at a booth when I walked in, and the hostess took me to the table. We exchanged the perfunctory introductions and I sat across from him. He was an unassuming man, average height, brown hair, brown eyes, no distinguishing features.
I ordered water; he was having a glass of tea. He answered, “Yes, thank you” when the server asked if he would like a refill. He ordered a salad, and I the soup I had imagined. We made small talk in between chews of the complimentary bread.
I heard the “click, click” of the briefcase that sat beside him, he opened it and pulled out a file with my name on it. I vaguely remember a flash of numbers and legal jargon as he explained the logistics of the relationship between a beneficiary and their trustee. Aside from that we didn’t spend more than 10 minutes discussing it. He gave me his business card and began telling me about himself.
He had two sons, the oldest was learning to play the guitar. I remember him smiling when he shared that he and his wife thought this was odd because neither of them was musically gifted. He said he knew that I also had two boys and that this was something we had in common.
I nodded and smiled, half-listening, not wanting to encourage further conversation, I wanted to hurry things along, get back to work, get on with my day.
He walked with me back to work where I signed a paper confirming our relationship of the trust agreement and went to my office to make a copy for myself. Returning, I gave him the original and we shook hands as he promised to be in touch. Lingering a moment at the door I watched him walk to this car and drive away.
That lunch was on Wednesday. The following Sunday as I read the paper, I took my usual perusal over the obituaries and stopped at a name I recognized but could not place. I read it aloud several times then my heart stopped. It was my trustee, my lunch guy. I thought that I was mistaken. It had to be his father. My guy was young and he seemed healthy. The obituary did not give a cause of death, merely: “he unexpectedly passed away.”
The Junk Drawer
People said the covid vaccine affected their periods. Now more than $1.6 million will go into researching it. (The Lily)
How abortion restrictions like Texas’ push pregnant people into poverty: A study of hundreds of pregnant women over a decade found that 72 percent of those who were denied care ended up living in poverty. (The 19th*)
Seven questions with ‘The Secret Lives of Church Ladies’ author Deesha Philyaw (The Bitter Southerner)
This is not really an “in case you missed it” and more of a “you absolutely don’t want to miss this.” Kacey Musgraves’ new album and companion 50-minute film debuts this Friday. Y’all please watch so we can discuss next week. It’s about to be a sad girl fall.
That’s all I’ve got for today.