The Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics will host two dramatically different programs next week – an affectionate look back on the short history of a gadfly Mississippi publication in the 1960s and a visit with the author of a new book dealing with the work of U.S. diplomats and the international press during a civil war in Liberia in 2003.
The activity will start at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11, with a discussion with Lew Powell and Ed Williams who edited “Mississippi Freelance,” a free-wheeling monthly that critiqued the status quo in the state in 1969. The pair were working for the Delta Democrat-Times in Greenville following their graduation from Ole Miss and recruited journalists and others around the state to offer commentary and news stories that could not be found elsewhere.
During its one-year existence the “Mississippi Freelance” exposed a case of plagiarism involving the president of the University of Southern Mississippi, lampooned the Sovereignty Commission, a state agency that spied on blacks and white liberals during the civil rights era, and published many biting reports on Mississippi politicians.
Powell, a native of Coahoma County, and Williams, who was editor of The Daily Mississippian at Ole Miss, both recently retired after long and distinguished careers at the Charlotte Observer. They will be joined on the panel by Charles Overby, chairman of the center who was a journalist in Mississippi at the time, and Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie, who was a frequent contributor to “Mississippi Freelance.”
“Lew and Ed were talented journalists when we were at Ole Miss together 50 years ago,” said Overby. “They had an amazing career and it will be fun to hear from them.”
A reception will be held following the program, which is free and open to the public. Parking will be available in the lot adjacent to the Overby Center Auditorium.
At 9 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 14, Dante Paradiso, author of “The Embassy,” will be on hand to discuss his book and his recollections as a political officer at the embattled mission in Liberia during a period of violent upheaval in the West Africa nation that was founded in the 19th century by freed American slaves. Paradiso will talk of the efforts by U.S. diplomats clinging to maintain a constructive influence in the country as well as the role of journalists working under dangerous conditions to get news out to the rest of the world.
For the one-hour program Paradiso will be engaged in a conversation with Wilkie, who covered similar unrest in Africa as a foreign correspondent for The Boston Globe.
“Paradiso’s book captures the drama of sudden violence in an unstable environment; the fighting in Liberia made life miserable for the people who lived there and created danger for diplomats and reporters who worked there,” said Wilkie. “The book offers some good lessons for aspiring journalists.”