James Young still remembers the Ku Klux Klan tormenting his neighborhood. He can still see his father holding a gun on the living room couch ready to shoot anyone who threatened his family.
Nothing about Young’s childhood ever made him think he could be the mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town best known for the killings of three civil rights workers in 1964.
That’s the way it was for black kids growing up in this crucible of racial hostility — big dreams were often squelched. Sitting on a sprawling Southern front porch this week, Young broke down in tears about what it means to be elected the town’s first black mayor.
“When you’ve been treated the way we’ve been treated,” he told CNN, choking up and then pausing to wipe the tears from his face.