Cover image for Ever is a long time : a journey into Mississippi's dark past, a memoir
Ever is a long time : a journey into Mississippi's dark past, a memoir
Eubanks, W. Ralph, 1957-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
xvii, 234 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.97.E83 A3 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E185.97.E83 A3 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Like the renowned classics Praying for Sheetrock and North Toward Home , Ever Is a Long Time captures the spirit and feel of a small Southern town divided by racism and violence in the midst of the Civil Rights era. Part personal journey, part social and political history, this extraordinary book reveals the burden of Southern history and how that burden is carried even today in the hearts and minds of those who lived through the worst of it.Author Ralph Eubanks, whose father was a black county agent and whose mother was a schoolteacher, grew up on an eighty-acre farm on the outskirts of Mount Olive, Mississippi, a town of great pastoral beauty but also a place where the racial dividing lines were clear and where violence was always lingering in the background. Ever Is a Long Time tells his story against the backdrop of an era when churches were burned, Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King were murdered, schools were integrated forcibly, and the state of Mississippi created an agency to spy on its citizens in an effort to maintain white supremacy. Through Eubanks's evocative prose, we see and feel a side of Mississippi that has seldom been seen before. He reveals the complexities of the racial dividing lines at the time and the price many paid for what we now take for granted. With colorful stories that bring that time to life as well as interviews with those who were involved in the spying activities of the State Sovereignty Commission, Ever Is a Long Time is a poignant picture of one man coming to terms with his southern legacy.

Author Notes

W. Ralph Eubanks is a native of Mount Olive, Mississippi. He lives with his wife and three children in Washington, D.C., where he is Director of Publishing at the Library of Congress

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Eubanks' fond memories of growing up in Mount Olive, Mississippi, in the 1960s were tinged with a reality he was loathe to admit until his young sons began asking about his childhood home. The innocent inquiries of his mixed-race children sent Eubanks exploring the darker side of life in the rural community during the turbulent civil rights era. His father, a county agent, and his mother, a schoolteacher, raised their four children on an 80-acre farm they owned to shield them from most of the racial indignities visited on townsfolk. But his research leads him to the records of the State Sovereignty Commission, charged with maintaining white supremacy, and the discovery that both his parents--NAACP members but hardly activists--were listed as targets of surveillance. Research, interviews, and personal recollections of school desegregation, demonstrations, church burnings, and the murders of Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King offer a poignant look at a small southern town during a tumultuous period. --Vanessa Bush Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Eubanks, the Library of Congress's publishing director, opens this capable memoir with an innocent question from one of his sons: "Daddy, what's Mississippi like?" In earnest prose, the author tries to describe "the world that shaped him" with its rigidly defined social code of race and class, using an almost coolly detached approach similar to the low-key demeanor of his father, a former county agent who earned much less than his white peers. While Eubanks applauds the changes that have occurred since Jim Crow laws ruled, he recalls with dread a terrifying incident when his "mixed marriage" drew hateful stares. He's almost sentimental when remembering his shielded childhood on the family farm outside the town of Mount Olive, where segregation's strict social laws were enforced. Eubanks's pleasant, unchallenging narrative can grind, as it drones on about his childhood home, "an idyllic place where racism and intolerance had no place." But that placid tone dissipates when he speaks forcefully of racial murders, the killing of civil rights leader Medgar Evers and the state's white citizens' deep hatred of Northerners. The book's unnerving sections come in Eubanks's revelations about the ultra-secret Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, which kept files on its black citizens-including Eubanks's parents-during the civil rights era. As the book ends, it seems Eubanks is content to tie off his occasionally uneven mix of restrained horror and romanticized yearning with a neat bow, reconciling both past and present and leaving the perfect opening for a well-positioned sequel. Photos not seen by PW. Agent, Martha Kaplan. (Sept. 15) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Prologuep. xi
Part 1 Safe in a Sea of Calm
1 Mo'nt Olliep. 3
2 Car Wheels on a Gravel Drivewayp. 21
3 Mighty Fine Peoplep. 39
4 Magnolias and Mayhemp. 65
Part 2 Terror and Magnificence
5 "The Names Included in This File ..."p. 77
6 "Ever Is a Long Time"p. 109
7 Rebel Flags and Bullet Holesp. 131
Part 3 Searching for the Truth
8 Facing the Firebrandp. 155
9 Down a Dark Trailp. 171
10 True Believersp. 183
Part 4 Reconciliation
11 A Trusty Compassp. 195
12 Goin' Down Southp. 205
Epilogue: Return to a Very Cool Placep. 223
Acknowledgmentsp. 231