Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Eyes on the Prize part 2

I'm rewatching the series Eyes on the Prize, inspired by seeing the movie Selma. It's fascinating, not only for the subject-matter, but because the series was produced about thirty years ago, in the mid-1980s, which means that most of the people involved in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s were still alive - some of them still pretty young since many of them, like the college student members of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) were of course quite young at the time and were only in early middle-age by the 1980s. They have interviews with Coretta Scott King and Myrlie Evers, the widow of assassinated Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers and David Dennis, an important leader of Freedom Summer.

One of my favorite people from the series is Mamie Till the mother of Emmet Till. It was largely thanks to her, and the brave testimony of Till's uncle, that made his horrible death into one of the first major Civil Rights issues, in 1955.

"Prize" is a bit dated though - in the section on Ever's death, it mentions that a fingerprint found on the murder weapon came from white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith, but later it is stated that "no one was ever convicted of his murder."

But that was in the 1980s. According to Wiki:
In the 1980s, the reporting by the Jackson Clarion Ledger of the Beckwith trials stimulated a new investigation by the state and ultimately a third prosecution, based on new evidence.[1] By this point, De La Beckwith was living in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. He was extradited to Mississippi for his trial at the Hinds County Courthouse in Jackson. The 1994 state trial was held before a jury consisting of eight black and four white jurors; it ended with De La Beckwith's conviction of first-degree murder for killing Medgar Evers. New evidence included testimony that he had boasted of the murder at a Klan rally and that he had also boasted of the murder to others during the three decades since the crime had occurred. The physical evidence was essentially the same evidence that was used during the first two trials.[1]He appealed the guilty verdict, but the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the conviction in 1997. The court said that the 31-year lapse between the murder and De La Beckwith's conviction did not deny him a fair trial. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder. Although Mississippi had a death penalty in 1963, it was unenforceable because it and other death penalty laws in force at the time had been declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Furman v. Georgia. Beckwith sought review in the US Supreme Court, but was denied certiorari.[8]On January 21, 2001, De La Beckwith died after he was transferred from prison to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. He was 80 years old. He had suffered from heart disease, high blood pressure and other ailments for some time.[1]

There are actually two parts of Eyes on the Prize, a seven part version, which I saw, that went up to the Selma march to Montgomery, and a second seven-part version, which goes from the mid-60s to the mid-80s.

One of the most starkly contemporary issues addressed by Part 9 of Eyes on the Prize is "open carry" and how, when the Black Panther party began to open carry, suddenly the law was changed in California preventing open carry within cities.

The double-standards of white vs. black people engaging in legal open carry is well documented.