Where In The World is Hunter Gray (John Salter)?

A special post by Hunter Gray …
3:45 PM (6 hours ago)

Posted widely. I have always believed in hitting issues openly.
I posted the following piece, On Being A Militant And Radical Organizer — And An Effective One, almost four months ago.  It’s increasingly obvious that, at the events commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the great Jackson Movement, I will be “the man who isn’t there.”  No meaningful invitation focused on that Movement and its full sweep has come to me from any quarter in that Jackson setting. No surprise. The sentiments expressed by me in my aforementioned Organizer piece continue to stand in total — and very strongly so.
But my book, Jackson Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism, can and will represent me very well indeed at Jackson and elsewhere.
We have picked up indications of a surreptitious and defamatory “whispering campaign” in certain Jackson, Mississippi circles directed against me personally — including even some hostile radical-baiting!  Well, I was a member for some years of the old-time Industrial Workers of the World (IWW Wobblies) — and I’m a life long supporter of militant industrial unionism, and left democratic socialism with libertarian trimmings. Usually non-violent in the tactical sense, the IWW was once described in semi-jocular/semi-serious fashion as a “cross between Henry David Thoreau and Wyatt Earp.”  In any event, there’s never been any secret about any social justice doings of mine.
In addition, my book, Jackson Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism, (now newly out via the University Press of Nebraska, and with a very substantive — 10,000 word — new introduction by me), has been the target of the same hostile whispering campaign.  Its quite sound quality is attested by many very positive reviews from its earlier incarnations, among them, the Journal of Mississippi History, Social Forces, The Journal of Southern History, UMOJA — A Scholarly Journal of Black Studies, Socialist Monthly Changes, Monthly Review Press, Social Development Issues, Sojourners.  You can see these and others via our website book link — — and some via University of Nebraska Press,674910.aspx  There are other solid reviews of JM at Amazon.  It’s a 272 page paperback, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
I pull no punches. There’s no pussy-footing. My book provides a very candid, detailed and insider’s view of the rise and development of the Jackson Boycott Movement/Jackson Movement of 1962-63 at every step — AND what very sadly and tragically happened to it.  One reviewer referred very favorably to my “demythologizing impulse.” 
You won’t find my book at the Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson.  But Square Books at Oxford does carry it.
If so inclined, you can help immensely by forwarding this entire message widely indeed — to the very Four Directions.  And I am quite certain that any purchaser of my book will find it and its lessons aplenty extremely interesting and most worthwhile.
If you’re a militant and radical organizer — and an effective one who is strong on both tangible grassroots gains and a worthy long range vision of a better world over the mountains yonder — you do your thing and move on to the next social justice crucible.  As you go along, you are remembered fondly and well for a good while by the people for and with whom you’ve earlier worked. The power structure, of course, will “never forgive and never forget”.  But, as time passes and those grassroots people and friends fade from the scene, and if — if — you continue as a militant and radical activist, you aren’t going to be broadly welcome in your earlier battlefields by very many of the newly arrived contemporary people. This is certainly true if you’re an independent rebel.  And all of this is especially true if you’re an “outside agitator” who came from afar.
Quite often, in contrast to the openly repressive and brutal and blatantly defamatory Old Guard of yore, contemporary enemies in the old combat fields tend to be covert and surreptitious, frequently hypocritical, and of notably limited courage.
If you morph, as time passes, into a kind of respectable and non-challenging brand of “liberal,” well — you might be brought back to various old battlefields to talk superficially about the old days of struggle.
A conventional academic who writes about the old civil rights wars and, as many academics do, does so cautiously, may be welcome.  And that person might even get an award of some kind.
What brings all of this to my mind is the fact that, in the 50th anniversary of the great Jackson, Mississippi Movement, no one has asked me to return to discuss the movement of which I was the basic and principal organizer, working with a growing number of young people in our NAACP Youth Council and Tougaloo College. I was their Adult Advisor. They were valiantly involved in developing that worthy struggle and, in doing so, running great risks.  The State of Mississippi is helping fund and organize a number of celebrations — climaxing in June 2013 — — focused mostly on NAACP Field Secretary Medgar W. Evers who was murdered in the course of the massive campaign. Planning for these has been underway for months and agendas are relatively fixed. I learned this belatedly. Somewhere in the mix of motives for these events, and there are certainly some strains of altruism, may be the wish to somehow assuage the collective guilt for a very long and sanguinary and hideously racist past — and the raw brutality of a garrison police state.  OK — and redemption can occur in the context of honest admission and tangible and significant redress. 
Medgar, a good friend and colleague who I knew well, would likely be the  first person to disclaim sainthood. And many things — including the Jackson Airport and a college in Brooklyn, N.Y. as well as a U.S. Naval ship — have been named for him.  I would be among the very last to deny honorable and courageous Medgar any honors of any kind. But it’s very clear that any discussion of the Movement itself, and the depth of the cruel and repressive realities of Mississippi that really weren’t that long ago, will very likely be handled gingerly and, if mentioned much at all, in very sanitized fashion.
Am I surprised, shattered by this omission of any meaningful invitation?  Not at all.  In the half century that has elapsed since the rise and climax of the Jackson Movement, I have not received one invitation to come there and speak at length. (I have given several impromptu talks when down there over the years.)  In 1979, I was asked to come to Jackson, expenses paid, for a relatively small part on a panel at a large civil rights retrospective.  I came, with about fifty copies of a 35 page (single spaced) paper on the Jackson Movement, and broadened my small space of time into a short but trenchant speech which, with reference to the National Office of the NAACP and the deepening shadow of the Kennedy administration back then, I concluded  with a denunciation of “the subversion by the corporate liberals of New York and the self-styled “pragmatism” of those splendid scoundrels residing in Camelot on the Potomac.” That drew a thundering and standing ovation from about one thousand people.
I know, personally and experientially, a great deal about what happened Movement-wise in those critical years of 1961-63 in Mississippi’s capital.  I’m one of the very, very few persons who does — and  one of a now tiny number who know the innards. (I was chair of the Jackson Movement’s Strategy Committee.)   In fact, I wrote a book — Jackson Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism — devoted mainly to an inside view of the Jackson Movement — the only detailed account of the massive struggle and likely the most detailed book about any local grassroots movement of the ’60s. It pulls no punches.  It was very well received when it appeared in 1979 — especially by those grassroots people in Jackson who actually participated in that crusade and/or who knew first hand what had happened.  Outside of Mississippi, it was well received broadly — drawing a large number of most positive reviews. (It was reissued late in 2011 by the University of Nebraska Press in expanded form with a new and  substantial introduction by myself.)
As Jim Loewen, a sociologist and professor and writer, very familiar indeed with Mississippi recently wrote:
“Classic account . . .Jackson, Mississippi presents a vivid insider’s view of the Jackson boycott movement, the demonstrations that led to mass arrests, the actions of courageous young people, and the murder of Medgar Evers and the incredible tension of his funeral march.  As you would expect, given that Salter was and is a sociologist and a radical, it also contains penetrating analyses of the role of each acting group, including the national office of the NAACP, black ministers, the city government and police force, White Citizens Council, etc. And it shows the important role played by Tougaloo, some of its students and faculty members (including Prof. Salter), and its president, A. D. Beittel.”
Despite the extremely repressive odds, we all — and I emphasize all — accomplished a great deal in the sanguinary travail of the Jackson Movement of 1962-63.  That stands forever as a shining mountain.
When you’re done with your work in a particular setting, you can justifiably look back for awhile, garner lessons and secure appreciation.  But it’s dangerous to your life’s organizing mission to look back too long and too much. Time-lock can be deadly  to critically needed activism. There have been many campaigns for me after Jackson — some large, some smaller, all of them important to people of the fewest alternatives.  A truly effective organizer rides over the mountains and crosses the rivers into new horizons of meaningful struggle.  That’s the true joy, the ultimate satisfaction, and the great and enduring lure.
(This piece is also found on the Our Thoughts section of Civil Rights Movement Veterans.)
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Member, National Writers Union AFL-CIO
(much social justice material)
I have always lived and worked in the Borderlands.
ORGANIZER — AND AN EFFECTIVE ONE (Mississippi et al.):
The Stormy Adoption of an Indian Child [My Father]:
(Expanded in Fall 2012. Photos. Material on our Native
See the new and expanded/updated edition of my very well-reviewed
“Organizer’s Book” — the inside story of the massive Jackson
Mississippi Movement, the murder of Medgar Evers, and more.
And with my new and very substantial introduction: