Guarding White Christians | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Guarding White Christians

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The first Seale on record was a bodyguard—at 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, Solomon Seale guarded King Alfred the Great, who ruled as the "King of the Anglo-Saxons" from 871-899. According to a two-volume, bound genealogical history of the "Seale" name on the shelf in the Franklin County Library in Meadville, the name likely came from the Old English word "seolth," which meant the most important house, or hall, in the village.

Certainly, the Seales that ended up in Southwest Mississippi by the mid-20th century believed in protecting their own. The name "Seale" appears dozens of times in the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission files—and not because the family was trying to integrate lunch counters.

A number of Seales emerged as leaders in the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in 1964, reportedly committing or supporting numerous acts of violence against blacks for the rest of the decade—but without real consequence. That is, until a federal jury this month finally found James Ford Seale guilty of kidnapping Henry Dee and Charles Moore, with the help of his father and his brother, among other Klansmen. Clyde Seale—James Seale's father and co-conspirator—was Tullie Seale's first cousin and a Grand Cyclops of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

The Klan began its third major period in U.S. history pushing back the threat of desegregation with violence and terror, being that the less-violent boycotts and threats of the Citizens Council didn't seem to be winning the battle. Since Confederate hero Nathan Bedford Forrest and buddies fired up the Klan during Reconstruction to scare off "agitation," the "need" for the nightriders in bedsheets (used to resemble ghosts to scare blacks) was only seen as acute when white supremacists thought they might be losing—during Reconstruction, to quell progressive movements in the 1920s and then against the encroaching Civil Rights Movement starting in '64.

That is, the Klan stepped up to finish the job—all in the name of God. They took an oath to follow "the spirit of Christian militancy" in order to "combat Satan" and "preserve Christian civilization."

Most of the Seale Klansmen were also in the White Knights, which met at Tullie Seale's church on Morgantown Road and drew its membership largely from the Mississipi and Louisiana counties surrounding Natchez, where hundreds of blue-collar workers at International Paper and Armstrong Tire & Rubber had joined the Klan. Natchez had become the de facto epicenter of Klan activity—due to its ready supply of plant workers firing each other up every day about the threats of segregation; its position at the heart of slavery wealth; and the fact that many blacks in the area had long refused to take abuse lying down.

By 1964, throughout the region, many blacks were standing up to fight back, eschewing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision of Gandhian non-violence, which never worked well in white-or-die Mississippi, in favor of armed self-defense. It is no coincidence that the white KKK and the working-class black Deacons of Defense were taking root simultaneously in Adams, Franklin, Claiborne and Jefferson counties—what historian Lance Hill calls "Klan Nation"—in 1964; they were, in effect, there to defy each other. As one got strong, so did the other—leading to both escalated violence by the Klan and, in other cases, complete retreats.

Both the Klan terrorists and their black targets embraced religion, especially Christianity, as a way to strengthen their resolve. Even as African Americans prayed to be delivered to a kinder heaven than the cruel earth they were enduring, Klansmen considered themselves Christian soldiers marching on the state's strong tradition of race division—bigotry that divided many churches over the "race question" in ways that still exist right here in Jackson.

Southern bigots had long cynically used the Bible to justify the most horrible treatment of blacks and pinned the responsibility on God for the violent actions they had to take to "defend" their race.

White children throughout Mississippi have long grown up hearing, as little Shirley Seale did, that blacks are less than human, "animals," violent by nature, sexually crazed—and that God commands that we protect the purity of the white race, by any means necessary.

White Mississippians have also long been told that slavery was actually good for former Africans who have it better here, after all, than they would back over there. Besides, they've told our "Gone with the Wind"-soaked minds, white people were good to their slaves. The slaves would have run away if they weren't, we were told.

Like many, the granddaughter of Grand Dragon Tullie Seale believed those "history" lessons until God told her the truth at at Mount Locust Plantation in 2003.

Previous Comments

ID
81377
Comment

In case no one has thanked those wonderful people for giving our ancestors their one and only one way transatlantic cruise let me be the first. I'm still trying to locate my real last name so I can discover who I am and where exactly I came from. Surely it was an accident our names were changed and good records weren't kept.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-06-27T17:15:21-06:00
ID
81378
Comment

Snirk, Ray. Remember the Northside Sun prize-winning column saying y'all should give thanks for slavery every day? That's one of the most shocking things I've seen published in 40 years. Also, it seems that a lot of my fellow whites aren't familiar with the practice of slave hobbling—that ole loving habit of cutting the tendons on the backs of slaves' feet so they couldn't run away.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-27T17:24:26-06:00
ID
81379
Comment

Slave hobbling? I've never heard of that one. Talk about cruel and unusual. Remember that disease they made up to describe slaves who desired freedom? It was in the CSA film. Ray, I'm determined to find my African roots, and I hope to eventually get a DNA analysis done to find out what tribe(s) I came from. Someone told me once that I look Ibo, but I'm feeling Yoruba. That tribe is known for its strong women. Two women with known Yoruban ancestry include Iyanla Vanzant and Judge Hatchett. I also want trace my Native American and European roots so I can know everything about where I came from. I heard that I have Choctaw and Cherokee ancestry based on oral tradition, and I know about my English ancestry on my dad's side of the family.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-27T20:01:29-06:00
ID
81380
Comment

Actually, it was cruel and common, L.W., I'm pained to say. When you find out your roots, please share. I was fascinated with Henry Louis Gates' presentation on this to us at Columbia. He's a hoot, I tell you. The "CSA" film was amazing. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-27T20:04:08-06:00
ID
81381
Comment

I would love to have "CSA" on DVD. That was an awesome movie, and I hardly ever go to the movies. Did you see Gates' documentary on PBS called African American Lives? Talk about inspirational. My older sister and I have been working on our family history for a few months. If I get a chance, I may blog on some of it.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-27T20:28:34-06:00
ID
81382
Comment

Lord, I thought I'd heard it all, but I never heard of slave hobbling, either. I have trouble just typing those two words together, it's too distressing. L.W., good luck with the geneology - it can be so hard for African Americans (as Ray as noted). You faintly touched on something I've long been interested in - reuniting people from both sides of the color divide (who are related). A movement has been building for a number of years, and I find it exciting, although I wonder if most of the benefit of that will not accue to those in the family raised white rather than those raised black.

Author
C.W.
Date
2007-06-30T08:09:02-06:00
ID
81383
Comment

I suggest the book "Mississippi in Africa" I dont have the author's name here in the office.

Author
Willezurmacht
Date
2007-07-02T10:21:48-06:00
ID
81384
Comment

I've heard of that book. The author is Alan Huffman. Here's a link with more info.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-07-02T10:27:44-06:00
ID
81385
Comment

Y'all need to read it. It's a really good book, with some balanced history - both sides and everything in between. :-)

Author
C.W.
Date
2007-07-02T18:41:07-06:00
ID
81386
Comment

It's SO humiliating to see Christianity used in such a way. I'm glad I wasn't yet alive when racial segregation was still legal! My community was as segregated at as any in the Delta (Louisiana side, mind you). Even so, at least no church I attended taught that racist segregation crap as part of their theology (yes, there was still a segregationist mentality, but at least there was no outright theology teaching that the white race was morally superior).

Author
Philip
Date
2007-07-03T19:45:19-06:00

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