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100 Years From Mississippi

Tarabu Betserai Kirkland
Tarabu Betserai Kirkland & Gina Rugolo Judd, Barry Shabaka Henley (Associate Producer), Cassandra Chowdhury (Editor), Derek Nakamoto (Composer)

Six million African Americans left the Deep South during the Great Migration between 1910-1970, many, to escape racial violence. Mamie Kirkland, a child of seven, was one of them. One hundred years later she returns to Ellisville, Mississippi, where her father, Edward Lang and a friend, John Hartfield, escaped a lynch mob in 1915. John Hartfield returned several years later and became one of the most gruesome victims of the lynching era when 10,000 people watched his execution that was advertised in the state newspaper.

Her migration trail was deeply embedded with racial violence from the 1917 East St. Louis, Illinois race riots, one of the bloodiest and deadliest in 20th-century America, to armed Ku Klux Klansmen who burned crosses on their lawn in Alliance, Ohio.

In spite of this adversity, Mamie, at the age of 108, has transcended racial violence, personal tragedy and near death to become the mother of 9 children, 17 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren, 66 great-great grandchildren, 5 great-great-great grandchildren, and a celebrated elder to an extended community of hundreds of friends from Buffalo to Los Angeles, and an icon who has graced the front page of the New York Times. This is her story.