When you push a fifth generation southerner to run for president, stuff that makes people uncomfortable just might pop out…
Haley Barbour had his white citizens council problem, but Haley had nothing on this. With a hat tip to the family at TheGrio, this from today’s Washington Post:
Paint Creek, Tex. — In the early years of his political career, Rick Perry began hosting fellow lawmakers, friends and supporters at his family’s secluded West Texas hunting camp, a place known by the name painted in block letters across a large, flat rock standing upright at its gated entrance.
“Niggerhead,” it read.
Ranchers who once grazed cattle on the 1,070-acre parcel on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River called it by that name well before Perry and his father, Ray, began hunting there in the early 1980s. There is no definitive account of when the rock first appeared on the property. In an earlier time, the name on the rock was often given to mountains and creeks and rock outcroppings across the country. Over the years, civil rights groups and government agencies have had some success changing those and other racially offensive names that dotted the nation’s maps.
But the name of this particular parcel did not change for years after it became associated with Rick Perry, first as a private citizen, then as a state official and finally as Texas governor. Some locals still call it that. As recently as this summer, the slablike rock — lying flat, the name still faintly visible beneath a coat of white paint — remained by the gated entrance to the camp.
When asked last week, Perry said the word on the rock is an “offensive name that has no place in the modern world.”
But how, when or whether he dealt with it when he was using the property is less clear and adds a dimension to the emerging biography of Perry, who quickly moved into the top tier of Republican presidential candidates when he entered the race in August.
He grew up in a segregated era whose history has defined and complicated the careers of many Southern politicians. Perry has spoken often about how his upbringing in this sparsely populated farming community influenced his conservatism. He has rarely, if ever, discussed what it was like growing up amid segregation in an area where blacks were a tiny fraction of the population.
Read the whole thing here.
Oh, and one more bite about the world where Perry grew up:
…until he joined the Air Force, Perry has said, Paint Creek “was the only world that I knew.”
It was a mostly white world. In 1950, the census counted about 900 black residents out of a population of about 13,000 in Haskell County, numbers that have declined steadily. Most blacks worked as maids or field hands and lived in an across-the-tracks neighborhood in the city of Haskell, the county seat, about 20 minutes from Paint Creek.
Throckmorton County, where the hunting camp is located, was for years considered a virtual no-go zone for blacks because of old stories about the lynching of a black man there, locals said. The 1950 Census listed one black resident in Throckmorton County out of a population of about 3,600. In 1960, there were four; in 1970, two; in 1980, none. The 2010 Census shows 11 black residents.
Mae Lou Yeldell, who is black and has lived in Haskell County for 70 years, recalled a gas station refusing to sell her father fuel when he drove the family through Throckmorton in the 1950s. She said it was not uncommon in the 1950s and ’60s for whites to greet blacks with, “Morning, nigger!”
“I heard that so much it’s like a broken record,” said Yeldell, who had never heard of the hunting spot by the river.
Racial attitudes here have shifted slowly. Haskell County began observing Martin Luther King Jr. Day two years ago, according to a county commissioner. And many older white residents understand the civil rights movement as a struggle that addressed problems elsewhere.
“It wasn’t the same issues here you were dealing with,” said Don Ballard, the superintendent of the Paint Creek school district. “Certainly were no picketing signs. Blacks were perfectly satisfied with what was happening.”