Melody W. reviewed Ever Is A Long Time: A Journey Into Mississippi's Dark Past on
W. Ralph Eubanks prefaces his first book with his sons innocent question: Daddy, whats Mississippi like? Eubanks finds himself torn between protecting his children from the harsh truth of segregation, as his parents attempted to do in his own childhood, and educating them on the bittersweet struggle for civil rights.
Over a period of several months, Eubanks debates how much of his past he should reveal to his children. He recalls his warm, sheltered childhood, but contrasts it against the turbulent backdrop of Mississippi in the Civil Rights era.
He introduces the Sovereignty Commission, the arm of the Mississippi government that kept thousands of files on the states residents and monitored those individuals for any signs of subversive activity. When the files of the Commission become public in the late nineties, shortly after his sons inquiry, Eubanks searches the files for his parents names and reels in shock when both appear on his computer screen.
Thus begins Eubanks years-long research into the activities of both civil rights activists and those seeking to curtail racial equality. He eventually resolves to revisit the old home-place, the site of both childhood joy and escalating racial tension.
After years of research and soul-searching, Eubanks is finally able to answer his sons question.
What is Mississippi like? Its a volatile world with dizzyingly complex social and cultural layers; as I visited more and more, I became accustomed to navigating my way through the tangled world where the past and the present and the sacred and the profane exist side by side.
Eubanks research offers insight into not only his history but also the wider story of the Civil Rights Movement. He oscillates between relating warm childhood memories and presenting the results of rigorous research. I was shocked to learn of the many activities of the Sovereignty Commission; wasnt state-sanctioned racism supposed to have ended in 1865?
These and other discoveries, in combination with Eubanks candid discussion of his life, are part of what makes the multi-layered memoir so endearing. Eubanks struggles to integrate his past and his present even as he relates what integration was like. He attempts to synthesize the two worlds of his childhood the safety of his own home versus the tumultuous atmosphere of Civil Rights-era Mississippi with his adult world in Washington, DC.
Eubanks account, though tinged with sentimentality and occasionally dry research in turns, is an interesting read that sheds a uniquely personal light on Mississippis dark past.
Read entire review at http://innerlooplit.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/growing-up-different-w-ralph-eubanks-life-in-the-heart-of-segregation/
This book took you back to the author's childhood. He describes what he saw as a sheltered boy. He found by going back to his Mississippi hometown that his parents were being watched and monitored during the 1960's. He never knew how differently his life could have been if the Sovereignty Commission had taken his parents as a seroius threat to their way of life. The author I felt spent too much time on the subject of the commission but was interesting how he sought out and resolved issues with with a former Klan member.Thank heavens that the author was raised in Mount Olive,Mississippi that he did not see the violence that took place in other areas of the state. It was interesting to read about what his life was like in the Jim Crow South.