Defeated in Jackson: Noted Columnist Bares Riders’ Smear Attempt

Westbrook Pegler

Jackson Daily News/June 16, 1961

JACKSON, Miss. – It is a mocking comment on the mawkish generosity of the American character that the bands of insipid futilities of the type called bleeding hearts can invade one of the finest American cities and arouse a howling national uproar of indignation, disgust, pity and shame. This the so-called freedom riders have done in Jackson, a really fine American city.

Its history and moral and patriotic traditions have been watered by the blood of heroes who have defended their homeland against a hot-eyed aggressor, incited by blood-thirsty Boston patrioteers, and its reputation has been smeared by enemies in New York who live by hate while yowling their pity for victims of hatred.

In Montgomery and Birmingham, Ala., surprise caught the police off guard, and these errors were studied in Jackson for the peace of the community and the pride of a sensitive homeland. There may be other American cities as tender of their precious heritage, but New York in not one of them. There are only a few native families whose members love New York with the unspeakable affection that inspires Jackson, the capital of Mississippi.

I know of Irish in New York whose immigrant forebears were socially and racially almost unemployable within the last century who still doggedly love their harassed and degraded city, but every hour, and at almost every corner, they seem to remember tha New York is not a beloved home of conscientious people as Jackson is, but a mysterious labyrinth of sinister strangers who fear one another.

Today I went to city jail to try to learn from some of the prisoners taken in the miserable fraud called Freedom Riders just what freedom they desired that was denied them.

Most of them come from Northern communities where they may associate freely across the color line, which has no existence. A white man or woman can go to a public toilet in a bus station without the slightest notice, to say nothing of opposition. So they decided, under organized incitation from offices in New York, to travel a thousand miles to deprive themselves of that freedom and invite personal assault by taunting the people of Jackson.

Mr. M. B. Pierce, the chief of detectives, took me up to the city jail and the first prison who was let into a little bare room was a pale, frail boy of 21, Charles David Myers, of Noblesville, Ind. He had sprigs of wispy whiskers and the start of beatnik sideburns although they all are allowed to shave. He said he was a Quaker whose soul suffered at the thought of someone (God, of necessity) had created a difference between him and his dark brethren. So he put himself into Central State College at Wilberforce, Ohio, with 2000 students, formerly all Negroes but now infiltrated with 200 whites.

It does not follow that 1800 Negroes enjoy such a bore or feel that assimilation to Myers improves their condition.

His father is a laborer and his mother is a household servant. Their family life is pleasant and poverty is not their lot.

Why had he come to Mississippi – possibly to strike a spark of hatred to light a holocaust in an innocent community of human beings? I asked him if he had ever heard of the Chicago race riot stated by such a spark when a white boy hit a Negro boy with a thrown stone at Hyde Park beach. Did he know that 500 innocents were hurt and 30 died for that mere mishap? He had never heard of it.



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