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Interview with Robin Kelley: Pressure on Mississippi

Video: Robin D.G. Kelley
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1. Spark for a New Generation
2. Anger Transformed
3. Open Casket
4. Pressure on Mississippi
5. Heroines
6. Legacies of Emmett Till

Transcript: For Mississippi to legitimize itself, it had to have a trial. It had to at least show a front of justice. Otherwise, it could be easily dismissed by the federal government -- and all of its claims for the right to be autonomous, to have state's rights, to take care of its own affairs, would have been null and void.

The other thing is that in the age of the Cold War, states like Mississippi and Alabama were looked upon by the world. The United States had a foreign policy of proving that democracy exists at home, proving that it doesn't have a race problem or a colonial problem. And it became more and more difficult for the State Department to do its work outside of the United States when back home you have all this racism and violence.

And so there was pressure on Mississippi from the State Department, pressure on Mississippi from the federal government, pressure on Mississippi congressmen, senators and the governor to look legitimate. So they tried to strike this balance between legality and legitimacy, on the one hand, and the same old white supremacy and violence, on the other. And so the trial was somewhat of a show, though everyone knew what the outcome would be -- and that is, "not guilty."

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