Revolving paths on the road to freedom

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Carolyn Travis Parker

Editor’s Note: I promise that we’re getting somewhere. The more I research, the more I uncover. It would seem that Henry Kirksey’s efforts to change the political landscape of Mississippi come with a Mary Poppins’ bag full of people, events, and stories. They are never-ending with each bigger than the last. This week, we talk about history coming close to repeating itself and other historical ties.

On March 25, Democratic State Representative Park Cannon from Georgia raised her fist in Black solidarity against the signing of a Georgia bill that would disenfranchise Black voters. That fist then followed through with knocks on Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s office door during the time he was scheduled to sign the bill. At a time when hundreds of the thousands of terrorists who stormed the Capitol on January 6th are still roaming free (or on house arrest), Georgia Capitol Police decided to arrest Rep. Cannon for her actions, citing that she obstructed law enforcement and disrupted General Assembly sessions. We all know the biases involved here.

In the late 1960s, Carolyn Parker – mother of Stephanie Parker Weaver – similarly raised her Black fist. Parker was the statewide coordinator for the Child Development Group of Mississippi and worked with Head Start. She led a protest at the Governor’s Mansion to ensure the organization continued to received funds for Head Start. From her obituary, it states, “During one particular march against then-Governor John Bell Williams, Carolyn led a group of demonstrators onto the lawn of the Governor’s Mansion. Protesters were de-manding that the federal funds for the newly created Head Start programs in Mississippi not be returned to Washington, D.C., or be frozen, as Williams was threatening to do. 

“Other demonstrators stopped on the grassy lawn, but Carolyn continued marching until she reached the Governor’s front door. She banged on the door, loudly demanding to see Governor Williams. Although turned away at the door by menacing highway patrol-men, this fearless warrior and change agent was undeterred. Governor Williams immediately released the funds to the state’s Head Start programs in order for them to continue their mission. However, a few days later, a white brick wall was constructed around the Governor’s Mansion to ensure that Carolyn would be the last uninvited guest to gain access to this private home.”

She would later marry Senator Kirksey’s friend and lawyer, Frank Parker, III, in 1970 when he was the lead attorney in the redistricting cases in Mississippi. They were the second interracial couple in the state to marry – a distinction that was followed closely by the Mississippi Sovereignty Committee who kept tabs on them. We’ll finally pick up on the re-districting cases next week.

DeAnna Tisdale Johnson has stepped into the role of publisher of her family legacy, the Jackson Advocate. Since March 2020, she has led the publication to once again become an award-winning newspaper with a new logo and website to boot. She is a Jackson native, graduating from Murrah High School and Tougaloo College. She is also classically trained in vocal performance, and, though she’s never broken a glass, she’s known to still hit a high note or two.

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Revolving paths on the road to freedom

By DeAnna Tisdale Johnson
April 2, 2021