Jackson, Mississippi. 1963.

America’s current debate on its multiracial present should benefit greatly from remembering a moment from its recent past.


It was a photograph which was widely reprinted back then, but not much since; of the United States’ civil rights struggle in the 1960s and the 1970s, many iconic photos had been made, but only a handful conveys the scale of anger and hatred this photo captured on May 28, 1963.

Sitting at the whites-only counter at a Woolworth’s five-and-dime store in Jackson, Mississippi were three protestors (l. to r.): John Salter, Joan Trumpauer, and  Anne Moody. All three were from Tougaloo College, a historically black college which became a centre of activity for he civil rights movement in Mississippi during the tumultuous 1950s and 1960s. Salter, a Native American who later assumed the tribal name Hunter Bear Gray, taught sociology at the college, while two girls were students there. In fact, Trumpauer (soon to be Joan Mulholland) was one of two white students at Tougaloo.

The moment was captured by Jackson Daily News photographer Fred Blackwell, who stood atop the lunch counter to take pictures. In the photo, the trio’s peaceful sit-in to integrate the department store’s lunch counter was drowned out by the angry white-mob. The mob doused the trio in ketchup, mustard and sugar — an abuse that lasted for some three hours until the manager closed the counter for the day.

Take a good look at the young man pouring sugar over Trumpauer’s neatly coiffed hair, and then at the man smoking a cigarette, and at glaring eyes of the rest of the spectators. There were looks of anger, disdain, and apathy. Unsettlingly, they were not fighting some rearguard action for segregation. The majority of the mob were teenagers and students from nearby Central High School.

It has been over half-a-century since that sit-in. With a black president in the White House, America has indeed come a long way from those dark days, but many commentators often forget that there are many for which segregation and Jim Crow are memories, not history. For each heralded memory of marching with Dr. King at Selma, there is perhaps a hidden one of dousing sit-in girls with mustard. Misguided teens they might have been, but now many members of that mob are in their seventies. Do they still hold the beliefs they so vociferously displayed on that May afternoon fifty-two years ago? It is for them to answer — but America should ask such uncomfortable questions frequently if she hopes to become a ‘post-racial’ society.

14 thoughts on “Jackson, Mississippi. 1963.”

  1. I can’t stop looking at this photo. I focus on the dark-haired guy in the light shirt on the left standing behind the protesters. He is staring as the glass of water(?) is being poured on top of the woman’s head. He is part of the mob, but doesn’t look happy. Perhaps it is a moment of truth for him. Perhaps he is now recognizing just how disgusting an act this is. I hope so.

    1. The buy pouring the water’s face is covered, a man standing next to him looks remorseful. I hope I am never on trail for my life with you as a witness, you cannot see straight. You could not identify a fart on a bean farm, you idiot!

      1. vin, meet kettle. i’m thinking you won’t even know what that means, though.

        martaze is talking about the guy you say looks remorseful. he is vaguely “behind” the front row of thugs. the boy to the left of “possibly remorseful man” (that would be your right, vin) is frightening. he looks like the sociopath who will later sneakily follow one of the 3 brave protesters until he can catch that poor person alone.

        btw, the male who has just finished pouring something on Joan’s head and shoulders is holding an empty sugar dispenser (with the screw-on lid removed).

  2. That picture is the reason why I’m so thankful for what MLK had done. It’s straight out of movie and novels. What were they thihking while they were doing this ? Jesus Christ ?

    1. The race baitors of today do not believe in Jesus, they believe in their bank accounts and the rest of the blacks and whites believe in no Lord.

      1. I do not believe in Jesus either and I do not believe in my bank account. I find the actions in that image to be repugnant and the clowns around who are jeering or smirking strike me as self righteous cowards.

    1. “Bigotry and ignorance at its finest…”

      Agreed, and sadly the vile bigotry and ignorance on display in this photograph is fast being equalled by modern-day social activists – in the not-too-distant future you and your ilk will probably be doing this to white males, Christians, Jews, climate sceptics etc.

      1. Until that happens. It hasn’t. Stop playing the white Christian male card, you apologist.

        Now *that* actually did *happen*, not some imagery distant future scenario pulled out of someone’s butt in an attempt to whine and deflect at the same time.

      2. This actually happened. Stop playing the white Christian straight male card with an imaginary future scenario in a pathetic attempt be an apologist for America’s racist past (and present) while whining over nothing that has ever actually happened or is happening. Stop trying to be a victim when you’re not.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s