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Murder in Mississippi : The True Story of How I Met a White Supremacist, Befriended His Black Killer, and Wrote This Book. - John Safran

Murder in Mississippi

The True Story of How I Met a White Supremacist, Befriended His Black Killer, and Wrote This Book.

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Published: 25th September 2013
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Published: 25th September 2013
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When filming his TV series Race Relations, John Safran spent an uneasy couple of days with one of Mississippi's most notorious white supremacists. A year later, he heard that the man had been murdered – and what was more, the killer was black.

At first the murder seemed a twist on the old Deep South race crimes. But then more news rolled in. Maybe it was a dispute over money, or most intriguingly, over sex. Could the infamous racist actually have been secretly gay, with a thing for black men? Did Safran have the last footage of him alive? Could this be the story of a lifetime? Seizing his Truman Capote moment, he jumped on a plane to cover the trial.

Over six months, Safran got deeper and deeper into the South, becoming entwined in the lives of those connected with the murder – white separatists, black campaigners, lawyers, investigators, neighbours, even the killer himself. And the more he talked with them, the less simple the crime, and the world, seemed.

Murder in Mississippi is a brilliantly innovative true-crime story. Taking us places only he can, Safran paints an engrossing, revealing portrait of a dead man, his murderer, the place they lived and the process of trying to find out the truth about anything.

About the Author

John Safran is an award-winning documentary-maker of provocative and hilarious takes on race, the media, religion and other issues. John first hit TV screens in 1997 on Race Around the World (ABC-TV). Both John Safran's Music Jamboree (SBS, 2002) and John Safran vs. God (SBS, 2004) won Australian Film Industry awards for Best Comedy Series and Most Original Concept, and were also nominated for Logie Awards. Other shows include John Safran's Race Relations (ABC-TV, 2009) which was nominated for two awards at the prestigious Rose d'Or Festival in Switzerland and Speaking in Tongues (SBS, 2005-06). John currently co-hosts Sunday Night Safran, a radio talk show on Triple J with cranky but beloved Catholic priest, Father Bob Maguire.

REVIEW SNAPSHOT®

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3.0

(based on 1 review)

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3.0

Not what you expect

By Jedda

from Sydney Au

About Me Everyday Reader

Verified Buyer

Pros

  • Easy To Read

Cons

  • Not What I Expected

Best Uses

    I enjoyed the journey but I expected an exciting ending and I was a bit disappointed. It opened my eyes to the racism in the South.

    Comment on this review

    The unaired story

    Rabbis would wag their fingers in front of the class at my all-boys school. They would tell us that if we married a non-Jew our children would not be Jewish.

    If you marry a non-Jew you're finishing Hitler's work for him! is how one of them put it.

    To be a Jew, according to the rabbis (like the Klan), your mother must be Jewish. And for her to be Jewish her mother had to be Jewish. And for her to be Jewish, hermother had to be too, rolling all the way back to the Hebrews plodding through the desert with Abraham.

    DNA testing has made things awkward for the Jewish community. Now it's quite simple to check whether your mother's mother's mother's mother's mother was Jewish. Some folk who have lived their lives as Jews have popped off to take a DNA test and found out they are not.

    The Race Relations story opens with me stomping out of my bedroom.

    'Jews make up 0.25 per cent of the world's population,' I lisp aggressively to camera. 'If I'm going to rule out 99.75 per cent of women on the pretext that Jews should only marry Jews, I'm going to make damn sure I'm actually one.'

    Cut to my bathroom.

    I'm staring in the mirror, poking a little plastic rod in and out of my mouth. The rod is for scraping saliva from one's cheek.

    'I'm going to the USA,' I say, 'to Family Tree DNA, the world's largest genetic testing firm. They send you out this kit.'

    I snap the head of the rod into a vial and twist on the lid.

    Cut to my lounge room. My laptop is throwing blue light on my face.

    'Now,' I say to camera, 'here's an interesting little sidebar ...'

    I swivel my laptop around to the camera. The masthead across the webpage reads 'White Pride Worldwide'.

    'Someone sent me a link to the American white pride website Stormfront,' I say, 'where they have an alert.'

    I read it out:

    'Alert: John Safran Coming to the USA. I have it on very good authority that the Australian Jewish documentary maker/comedian John Safran will be coming to the United States sometime between now and the middle of the year to film his new show for the ABC, Race Relations.

    'John Safran was the blond, blue-eyed Jew from Australia who tried to enlist in the Ku Klux Klan in his series John Safran vs God.

    'I personally felt this episode was in particular poor taste, and would warn white separatists across the States to keep a watchful, close eye out for John Safran attempting to set up other white separatist groups in a similar way.'

    I stare down the camera, addressing the white supremacists.

    'Hey, guys,' I say. 'I wasn't even thinking about you. But now that you've brought it up . . . Seeing as I'm going to America for a DNA test – why don't I go get a DNA test done on one of you?'

    I whip out of my pocket another Family Tree DNA kit.

    'Oh, I don't know,' I say, 'how about the founder of the Nationalist Movement, Richard Barrett?'

    I make out I know who this guy is, but I don't. I'm familiar with the lowercase 'white nationalist' movement, which just includes any group that's proud to be white. As to this specific uppercase 'Nationalist Movement' – no idea. The reason I'm off to see Richard Barrett specifically is, my researcher shot off emails to a dozen Klan-types and he's the one who got back to us. On his webpage Richard says he's also the founder of the American skinhead movement. He's sixty-seven years old.

    A tiny plane flies on a map from my flat to Mississippi.

    The Mississippi State Legislature is bright white and gorgeous, a bit Greek temple, a bit Gone With the Wind mansion. I trot up the steps and between the white pillars. A black senator, Robert Johnson, meets me on one of the marble walkways.

    'Can you tell us who Richard Barrett is?' I ask.

    'Richard Barrett is an avowed racist, white supremacist, who believes the only true Americans are white Americans,' Senator Johnson says, his moustache bouncing up and down. 'And he's one of the most outspoken white supremacists here in the state.'

    Coincidentally, my visit collides with a ceremony run by Richard Barrett.

    'And what is the 'Spirit of America Day banquet'?' I ask Senator Johnson.

    'It is an award ceremony,' he answers, 'that Richard Barrett alleges recognises athletes, male athletes, football players, who represent the best of what is America. But he's never recognised an African American or a black student at all. And in the past he's acknowledged that it's only for white students.'

    Fade down. Fade up.

    It's night. A black pickup truck speeds down a road in rural Mississippi. The moon must be somewhere but I can't find it and there are no streetlights either. An old man with liver spots controls the wheel: Richard Barrett. I sit beside him. The damaged road rattles my teeth. For the 'founder of the American skinheads', he's sure trying hard to hide that he's going bald. He has thin grey hair he's styled into a comb-over. Perhaps to make up for that, Richard is driving so fast the wind gusting in the windows is drying out my eyeballs.

    Richard wears glasses but refuses to be filmed wearing glasses. He slides them off whenever the camera points his way. I also wear glasses but decide not to wear them, convinced they make me look Jewish.

    Two blind phonies drive into the night.

    Tomorrow I plan to secure a saliva sample from Richard for the DNA test. Tonight I want to find out more about the man.

    ISBN: 9781926428468
    ISBN-10: 1926428463
    Audience: General
    Format: Paperback
    Language: English
    Number Of Pages: 383
    Published: 25th September 2013
    Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3
    Weight (kg): 23.1