Thursday, September 27, 2007

BANISHED -- When Jim Crow Came to Town, With Eviction Notices

MANOHLA DARGIS in The New York Times

There are ghosts haunting Marco Williams’s quietly sorrowful documentary “Banished,” about the forced expulsion of black Southerners from their homes in the troubled and violent decades after the Civil War. Dressed in what looks like their Sunday best, in dark suits and high-collar dresses, they stare solemnly into an unwelcoming world. A couple ride in a cart along a pretty country road, and others stand awkwardly before houses with peeling paint. There are few smiles. Photography was then a serious business, though being a black landowner, part of a fragile, nascent Southern middle class, was more serious still.

It’s stunning how loudly the dead can speak, and with such eloquence. I couldn’t help comparing these images with those in one of my own photo albums of a large family of stern-looking Midwesterners dressed in what looks like their Sunday best. The rough, ill-fitting suits and somber dresses look similar to those in the documentary, and the simple clapboard house looming behind this family recalls comparable homes in “Banished.” There are, once again, few smiles, though in one photo my grandfather, then around 12, looks as if he’s trying to keep one in check.

Unlike the young men in Mr. Williams’s documentary, my grandfather raised a family and ran a business not far from where his photographs were taken — an upstanding white citizen in a nearly all-white land. The young black men in “Banished” never had the chance to take root. Some were falsely accused of molesting white women and were lynched. We see a few of these dead in other photographs, hanging from trees and lampposts, their bodies sometimes surrounded by a visibly excited white crowd. (A crude sign under one corpse warns not to wake him.) As Mr. Williams explains, his measured voice-over calm as ever, lynching was an instrument of terror, used against blacks as a means of control and “racial cleansing.”

(read entire article)

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At 11:48 PM, Blogger Temple3 said...

Thanks for flagging this.

At 6:40 PM, Blogger said...

Hello there!

I am a new visitor to your site!

I grew up as a black girl in a former "sundown town" and I have been stunned to find that most blacks who I talk to have never EVEN heard the term "sundown town". When I tell them to google it, then are floored.

I am floored that so many are oblivious to this part of our history... there are still sundown towns in existence...they simply took their warning signs town at the town line....

Thanks for mentioning this piece!

Feel welcome to stop by my blog and share as often as you'd like! I won't list my post topics ala my fellow blogger above (smile) but I think you will find the discussion topics to be provocative and interesting!

{raised revolutionary fist}


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