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Noah Adams on Mississippi

May 1, 2001 -- Noah Adams brings us reflections on the state of Mississippi, then and now. He spent a week in the state, traveling and talking with people about the old days and the new. Among his stops were the towns of Oxford, Starkville, Cleveland and Jackson.

Noah Adams reflects on 30 years of ATC Listen to his report on All Things Considered. 

In Oxford, Noah met with some law students at the University of Mississippi, better known as Ole Miss. Back in 1962, the campus was thrown into the national spotlight when deadly riots broke out over the admission of blacks into the school. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled eight years earlier that school desegregation would be the law of the land, but Mississippi refused. Noah talks with students about the university's historic past.

In Starkville, Noah spent a day with 80-year-old retired state senator Horace Harned. The two discussed Harned's side of the civil rights story. Harned said he worked all of his life to protect Mississippi from "the threat of integration." He told Noah that among his fears was a Communist takeover, even a black republic. Harned was a member of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, a spy agency, paid for with tax money and given the power of law enforcement. It was disbanded in the 1970s.

In Cleveland, Noah visited with Margaret Block. She grew up as an activist and helped with the early efforts to register black voters in Mississippi, which she says was extremely frustrating. Her latest mission is trying to establish a memorial in honor of the first brick house built by a black man in Cleveland.

In Jackson, Noah visited with Hollis Watkins. He was 19 when he was arrested at a Woolworth's lunch counter. He was 21 when he and other protesters spent 58 days in a penitentiary, sometimes hanging by their handcuffs from the cell doors. Watkins sings some bars from the song Ain't Scared of Nobody Because I Want My Freedom for Noah. Watkins says they sang it then, and they sing it now because young folks love it. Read Noah Adams' bio.