1955: an observation
It was not the most mind-shattering year of the 20th century, but 1955 was a space/time marker that deserves pondering after sixty years. The Bandung Conference was a forum for Asian and African nations who would become architects of new world orders. Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi. Rev. George W. Lee (Belzoni) and Lamar Smith (Brookhaven) were also lynched. The mustard seed for contemporary, religion-flavored terrorism might have been planted at Bandung, Indonesia. Strong analyses of what happened there must consider such a possibility. Equally strong analyses of lynching in Mississippi might not move any pretense at “race and reconciliation” an inch from where it Is stuck. A hot tear resides in your right eye as you read Julius E. Thompson’s Lynchings in Mississippi: A History, 1865-1965 (2007); a question marches in your mind as you read Richard Wright’s The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference (1956): do major planners in the Obama administration recall that Bandung happened? If you try to sing “We Shall Overcome,” your heart will be stabbed with artificial feelings. Unless you are a God-blessed idiot, you remember that in 1955 two white males in Mississippi were praised, found not guilty, and paid for murdering an uppity young boy; those who killed Lee and Smith celebrated; and you remember that the echoes of that obscenity grow louder and more lurid in 2015.
Twenty years after 1955, Bernard Grun published The Timetables of History, his translation, revision, and
updating of Werner Stein’s Kulturfahrplan (1946). According to the entries for 1955, Walter White,
Albert Einstein, Ortega y Gasset, Charlie “Yardbird” Parker and a few other notable people died.
Teilhard de Chardin published Le Phénomene Humain (The Phenomenon of Man), a magnum opus, and
Vladimir Nabokov published Lolita, a curious classic. The U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. announced they would
race to launch satellites. “The Seven Year Itch,” “Marty,” and “The Rose Tattoo” were shown in movie
houses. Artificial diamonds were manufactured at 2,700 degrees C. Salvador Dali shocked the art world
with “The Lord’s Supper.” “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” was one of the most popular songs.
Sixty years after 1955, you look back and wonder why Bernard Grun chose to say nothing about Emmett Till and Bandung. And, of course, the answer was broadcast on the evening news today.
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
June 16, 2015