“Jackson, 1964” by Calvin Trillin

Trillin is wonderful and I would read pretty much anything he writes (though Tepper isn’t going out wasn’t my favorite). This collection (published in 2015) is of his reporting on race over 40 years, beginning in 1964. (There is another collection of his slightly earlier reporting on the desegregation of the University of Georgia.) Some pieces are personal-interest stories that are enjoyable but don’t feel terribly consequential; a couple have lost some of their urgency (like the brutal piece on the Senate hearings for Griffin Bell, Carter’s first Attorney General); but most feel exceptionally contemporary. For example, here’s Trillin writing in 1975 about the killing of Joseph Herbert, a black man, by the white police officer Allen Earlywine, following a traffic stop:

In response to Bayley’s remarks that the [inquest] jury’s findings had been contradictory, the foreman said that he took the votes of those who believed Earlywine to have been in fear for his life to mean that any white man would be afraid in a black neighborhood at night. … Bayley and Hanson became illustrations for those who argue that in the final issue between the races–the issue of whether a black life has the value of a white life–openly repressive white authority and seemingly sympathetic white authority are, in Tyree Scott’s words, “functionally the same.”

Calvin Trillin, in “Causes and Circumstances”, The New Yorker, 1975.

(Christopher Bayley was the reformist prosecutor who declined to prosecute Earlywine, Robert Hanson was the police chief of Seattle at the time, and Tyree Scott was a local activist.)

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1 Response to “Jackson, 1964” by Calvin Trillin

  1. JBL says:

    The title piece concerns (among other things) COFO and the Freedom Summer, headed by Bob Moses, who just died: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/bob-moses-dead/2021/07/25/0d2ae144-c3a2-11e5-a4aa-f25866ba0dc6_story.html

    He also founded the Algebra Project https://algebra.org/wp/

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