by Martin Espada
I visited Biloxi in January 1998. Glimpsing the highway sign that read "Welcome to Mississippi" triggered a pulsation of dread. Even before I knew of my father's experience there, the Mississippi of my young imagination was an inferno. Here Emmett Till was murdered for insulting a white woman; NAACP leader Medgar Evers was assassinated; three civil rights workers were found buried in a dam, killed by the Klan with the collaboration of the local police. Phil Ochs sang of the cops in Mississippi: "Behind their broken badges / they are murderers and more." My father played that record over and over during my childhood years, and I never understood why.