Synopses & Reviews
When Ralph Eubanks was born in 1957, the consensus in Mississippi was that a child his age would never live long enough to see an integrated school. In this extraordinary personal pilgrimage, he travels back to his Southern roots to reconnect with this troubled past--and find answers to the questions that linger in the present. For the Eubanks family, home was an eighty-acre farm off a blacktop road outside Mount Olive, one of a string of small towns along U.S. Highway 49. While his family's rural life offered them an independence that compensated for what they lacked materially, their status--his father was a well-respected Negro County Agent, his mother a school teacher--still could not fully insulate them from a climate of fear that made even small steps across the Jim Crow line a matter of life and death. An evocative look back at growing up during the Civil Rights era, Ever Is a Long Time explores the complexities of the south's racial dividing lines--unwritten understandings that had his mother changing her designation from "white" to "colored" in country birth records, and which placed a young Ralph as the only black boy in an otherwise all-white classroom. And as Eubanks discovers when he finds his parents' names listed in the State Sovereignty Commission files as people whose "utterances or actions indicate that they should be watched with suspicion on future racial attitudes," as the winds of change started blowing, the forces allied to fight integration would go to ever more insidious measures.
In June of 1957, Governor James Coleman stepped before the cameras of "Meet the Press" and was asked whether the public schools would ever be integrated. "Well, ever is a long time," he replied, "[but] I would say that a baby born in Mississippi today will never live long enough to see an integrated school." In this extraordinary pilgrimage, Library of Congress Publishing Director W. Ralph Eubanks recaptures the feel of growing up during this tumultuous era, deep in rural Mississippi. Vividly re-creating a time and place where even small steps across the Jim Crow line became a matter of life and death, he offers eloquent testimony to a family's grace against all odds. Inspired by the 1998 declassification of files kept by the State Sovereignty Commission-an agency specifically created to maintain white supremacy-the result is a journey of discovery that leads Eubanks not only to surprising conclusions about his own family, but also to harrowing encounters with those involved in some of the era's darkest activities.
A gripping memoir of coming of age in Mississippi in the Civil Rights era, and a startling look at the once secret files of the State Sovereignty Commission
About the Author
W. Ralph Eubanks is a native of Mount Olive, Mississippi. He lives with his family in Washington, D.C., where he is the Director of Publishing at the Library of Congress.