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The Mississippi Truth Project

The Mississippi Truth Project. The Mississippi Truth Project is a statewide effort to create a truth and reconciliation commission that will bring to light racially motivated crimes committed in Mississippi between 1945 and 1975. Why 1945 to 1975?.

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The Mississippi Truth Project

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  1. The Mississippi Truth Project

  2. The Mississippi Truth Project is a statewide effort to create a truth and reconciliation commission that will bring to light racially motivated crimes committed in Mississippi between 1945 and 1975.

  3. Why 1945 to 1975? This thirty-year period saw the beginning, rise and public expression of the Civil Rights Movement in America, and the bitter backlash against it. Among the pivotal events that happened were: • The return of African American GIs and sailors from WWII in 1945, to discover that nothing had changed and that they had risked their lives for rights that they weren’t granted. These men and women formed the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement. • Civil disobedience and grassroots organization in pursuit of equal civil rights • The creation of private white academies, often using public funds, to avoid integration of public schools. • Violent counter-attacks and acts of terror and intimidation against people and property to maintain the status quo.

  4. Once established, the commission will explore the institutional structures of racism as well as examine crimes against the body, crimes against property, the collusion of public officials and conspiracies of silence that for the past 60 years have divided Mississippians.

  5. Five regional groups are working to craft the mandate for the commission, as well as engage in local efforts to collect oral histories. The MTP expects to seat a commission by the end of summer 2010.

  6. What is a mandate? • A mandate tells the commission what to do. • It is a public document to hold the commission accountable. Among other things, it tells the commission: • Why they have been impaneled; • What time period to look at and how long to work; • The subject of the inquiry; • The composition of the commission and the qualifications of its members; • How they will come into being; • What authority they will have; and • What to do with the records they develop when they are finished.

  7. The commission is expected to work from six months to two years and will issue a final report of findings and recommendations.

  8. The Mississippi Truth Project (and later the Mississippi Truth Commission) is one of three efforts aimed at improving interracial relations in Mississippi.

  9. The Welcome Table The Welcome Table: An Era of Dialogue on Raceis a series of retreats offered to small groups of Mississippians who are dedicated to fostering positive change in their communities.

  10. Using the Spirit of generosity curriculum, a system using stories to convey and exemplify universal truths, these training sessions provide a safe space in which members of divided communities can learn to listen to and trust each other. WT facilitation teams teach the participants to create safe spaces in which sensitive issues can be discussed and explored without fear of personal attack. Over time, the participants learn to create such environments on their own and to teach that practice to others.

  11. By teaching community members how to effectively to listen to each other and to build trust, the Welcome Table helps citizens engage in inclusive and meaningful conversations about the place they call home. Further, these people will also comprise a cadre of citizens who will help implement the recommendations of a Mississippi TRC.

  12. Teaching Civil Rights History in Mississippi Signed into law in 2006, Mississippi Senate Bill 2718mandates the teaching of civil and human rights history in all Mississippi K-12 classrooms.

  13. The new curriculum, which is currently being developed by the Mississippi Department of Education and the Mississippi Civil Rights Education Commission, will incorporate a more accurate and inclusive history of the civil rights movement and its effect on the history of the state. It will emphasize the local, grassroots character of civil rights efforts in Mississippi, the role of women and children in activism, the institutional nature of racism, and the influence of that struggle on other movements for human rights.

  14. The new curriculum will also incorporate local stories within a larger civil rights framework, allowing geographically specific incidents to be incorporated into local school curricula. For example, in Tallahatchie County, a portion of the studies will focus on the murder of Emmett Till, which occurred there in 1955 and was a catalyst for the modern civil rights movement.

  15. Coming Full Circle Each of these initiatives—the Mississippi Truth Project, the Welcome Table and the new civil rights curriculum—build on one another by using stories, truth-telling, and listening in order to grapple with the racism that continues to divide Mississippians. The truth and reconciliation commission will issue a report at the conclusion of its work. Simultaneously, the Welcome Table is working to prepare Mississippians to hear the truth, to build relationships based on that honesty and understanding, and then to implement the recommendations of the truth and reconciliation commission. Both groups will lift up unheard and untold stories. In turn, those stories will be used in the statewide civil rights curriculum to teach future generations of Mississippians the lessons of inclusion and justice and how to achieve them in spite of great odds. Each one feeds the other.

  16. For more information about the Mississippi Truth Project, please visit the website at www.mississippitruth.org, or call the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at 662-915-6734.

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