Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Black History Month Program Features ‘Mississippi Story Behind Rosa Parks’

Most people who’ve taken a high school history class know something about Rosa Parks. On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks, age 42, refused to obey bus driver James Blake's order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. Her action sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Parks' act of defiance became a symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement and the U.S. Congress later called her the "Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement."

But there was another spark that lit this movement, and it came three months earlier from the depths of the Mississippi Delta, says writer Susan Klopfer of Mount Pleasant. The author of an audio book, “Who Killed Emmett Till?” is set to present a program on Parks and Till for Black History Month at the Mount Pleasant Library in the Large Study Room at noon on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Attendees are invited to bring a brownbag lunch, said Library Director Gayle Trede.

Klopfer lived in the Mississippi Delta for two years on the grounds of a state prison when her husband took a job as the director of the state’s prison psychological services. Her fascination with the region and its civil rights history led her to driving around the Delta “almost daily” to talk with people who remembered the modern civil rights movement -- nearly 60 years earlier.

“There’s a saying in Mississippi, that the past is the present. I found this true as people told me story after story of their involvement in trying to end Jim Crow and achieve voting rights.”

The Delta was an unsafe place for any black person, considering the heightened tension following Brown v. the Board of Education I in 1954 and then Brown II the following year. It was particularly unsafe for anyone violating Jim Crow standards for acceptable behavior in the segregated south.

“Till was a young man from Chicago who had never experienced living in such hostility. He was known to be a prankster and had no idea that his action of harassing a white woman would end his life.”

Parks had been planning her action, but when she and the NAACP heard about the acquittal of the two men who tortured and killed this 14-year-old in Mississippi, they knew the time had come for her move, Klopfer said.

Klopfer plans to tell the Emmett Till story adding new information she gained from interviews, including a woman whose family sheltered three men claiming they murdered Till, the mortician’s assistant who prepared Till’s body before he put it on the train from Chicago, and a student who interviewed one of Till’s killers two weeks before the man died of cancer. Klopfer also plans to talk about Fannie Lou Hamer, Amzie Moore and other forgotten Delta civil rights heroes.

A question and answer session will follow Klopfer’s talk and the program is free to the public.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Susan Klopfer
505-728-7924 (cell)
404 North Main St.
Mount Pleasant, IA 52641


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