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OTL: Ghosts of Mississippi

Updated: October 30, 2012, 10:27 AM ET
By Wright Thompson
When I was 5 or 6, because of my dad's political activism in the Mississippi Delta, local white supremacists burned a cross in our front yard. My parents had a decision to make: Wake me up or let me sleep. They chose sleep. On that night, hate and fear would not be passed to another generation.

In the years that followed, my parents raised my brother and me to leave old prejudices behind. They enforced strict rules that made my home something of an oasis. Respect all people. Understand other points of view. And, of course, no N-word, ever, under any circumstance. That certainly made our house different than many in town. My dad ran the local Democratic Party, so I grew up around whites and blacks, which also made me different from many of my friends. Still, there were things never discussed. We never really talked much about the civil rights era, about things my parents had seen. The South during the '60s was like that cross in our front yard: something they experienced but wanted to shield their children from.

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