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Ever Is a Long Time: A Journey Into Mississippi's Dark Past, A Memoir Paperback – International Edition, January 4, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (January 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465021050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465021055
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #339,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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 © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Richard P. Sanders on September 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
First, I am a native Mississippian who has lived out of the South for about 10 years. Coincidently, I went to Ole Miss and lived in the same dorm as the author but a year earlier. I did not know Mr. Eubanks but may have had classes with him. Ever is a Long Time is a great look back on activities of both sides of the civil rights movement. The Mississippi Sovereignty Commission spied on all citizens of the state and had 87,000 names in its files including Mr. Eubanks' parents. I have found the names of parents of several very good friends; Parents who were on both sides of the segregation question. It is a troubling story for a Mississippian to read and has led to phone calls and extended discussions with old friends. It has also increased my awareness of the times, our abilities to do mindless things, and to find the better way. There are some poignant interviews with past Sovereignty officials, a past member of the KKK, as well as leaders of the civil rights movement. These wonderfully display the frailty of humans, the need to cope, the darker side of man, and the ability to change. The passages about his children that open and close the work are among my favorites. The book is an honest, worthwhile read about cultural changes and the history of yesterday. (My copy did not have any pictures beyond the cover). Mississippi carries a brutal stigma regarding racial history. My time in other parts of the country have convinced me that the emotions of the 50's and 60's were not limited to Mississippi but rather widely held across the country. Mississippi, like other southern states, got the label and historical coverage and will always carry the stigma. It is a fading stigma that should have been widely shared across our healing nation. My heart gives it 5 stars, but objectivity demands 4 stars.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Danusha V. Goska on September 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
Rarely one reads a book that causes the reader to feel love for its author. I had that experience reading "Ever Is a Long Time." W. Ralph Eubanks' memoir depicts the struggles white supremacy thrust upon him and his family, from his white grandfather, who married a black woman, on down to his own children, whom he must introduce to their father's Mississippi.

Mississippi in the 1950s and 60s -- one imagines lynchings, injustice, heroism, sacrifice, history writ in blood.

Eubanks' memoir, though, is suprising in its quite and restraint. Eubanks's childhood was, in many ways, "idyllic," he reports. His parents were pillars of the community. He grew up on an eighty acre farm. He went fishing and climbed trees.

White supremacy, though, was an unavoidable evil. His father, a college educated professional, was denied simple toilet facilities at his work place. The family did not pave their driveway, so that if an uninvited guest brought trouble, the crunch of gravel would announce his presence. Eubanks' white grandfather's photograph was kept in the closet, lest it rouse questions, and trouble.

Eubanks grew up, and moved away. His sons' questions about Mississippi caused him to go back. In going back, he investigated the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, a state-sponsored spying agency that kept records of 87,000 of Mississippi's just over two million citizens. Its goal was to thwart civil rights workers and federal integration efforts. Eubanks' parents were included on that list of names.

Eubanks meets with a former Klan member, so torn by his own membership in that evil society that he breaks into tears after their meeting. Eubanks also meets with an unrepetent member of the MSC.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Sammis on June 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Eubank's autobiography is fascinating. The segues between his childhood, his investigation into the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, his trip back to Mount Olive and the historical pieces about the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi are sometimes missing or confusing. I also caught a couple editorial mistakes (duplicate words or funny gramatical stuff) that should have been caught by the editor.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading the book and feel I am coming away from it having learned a great deal about a time and place in history I am personally quite removed from. I read it just after having heard the NPR All Things Considered 5 part piece on the Brown vs. Board of Education decission so Eubank's memoir provided an interesting counterpoint.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Melody & Words on October 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
W. Ralph Eubanks prefaces his first book with his son's innocent question: "Daddy, what's Mississippi like?" Eubanks finds himself torn between protecting his children from the harsh truth of segregation, as his parents attempted to do in his own childhood, and educating them on the bittersweet struggle for civil rights.

Over a period of several months, Eubanks debates how much of his past he should reveal to his children. He recalls his warm, sheltered childhood, but contrasts it against the turbulent backdrop of Mississippi in the Civil Rights era.

He introduces the Sovereignty Commission, the arm of the Mississippi government that kept thousands of files on the state's residents and monitored those individuals for any signs of subversive activity. When the files of the Commission become public in the late nineties, shortly after his son's inquiry, Eubanks searches the files for his parents' names... and reels in shock when both appear on his computer screen.

Thus begins Eubanks' years-long research into the activities of both civil rights activists and those seeking to curtail racial equality. He eventually resolves to revisit the "old home-place," the site of both childhood joy and escalating racial tension.

Eubanks notes that he experienced a very safe childhood, partly as a result of his parents' wise move from the Mississippi Delta to a farm in northern Mississippi. Provincial yet friendly, Mount Olive, or "Mo'nt Ollie," as Eubanks fondly calls it, seems the epitome of southern culture.

Ralph followed his father to work every day until reaching the age to begin attending school.
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More About the Author

W. Ralph Eubanks is the author of Ever Is a Long Time: A Journey Into Mississippi's Dark Past (Basic Books, 2003), which Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley named as one of the best nonfiction books of 2003, and The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South (Harper, 2009). He has contributed articles to the Washington Post Outlook and Style sections, the Chicago Tribune, Preservation, The American Scholar and National Public Radio. A graduate of the University of Mississippi (B.A.) and the University of Michigan (M.A., English Language and Literature), he is a recipient of a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and has been a Bernard Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation. Ralph lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and three children and is the editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review at the University of Virginia.

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