The Eagle Eye, a Jackson newspaper published by Arrington W. High (1910–88), was the most strident of Mississippi’s five black newspapers in the 1950s. At a time when the state’s other black newspapers took a conservative approach to race relations, High’s newspaper was known for its explicit demands for social equality and bold criticism of white authorities. His criticism extended to black teachers and clergy who did not join his call for immediate integration and voting rights.
High wrote and published the newspaper from his home on Jackson’s Maple Street, and it usually took the form of a one- or two-page mimeographed sheet measuring eight by fourteen inches. The banner proclaimed itself “America’s greatest newspaper, bombarding segregation and discrimination.” Though the price fluctuated, individual copies of the newspaper sold for ten cents, and a yearly subscription ranged between five and eight dollars. The frequency of publication varied but at times was as often as three times a week. The paper could be purchased directly from High or at the Farish Street Newsstand in Jackson. Available archival documents (incomplete because of the informal mode of production and dissemination) show that High published the newspaper from 1954 to 1967, though its run may have been longer.
Steven D. Classen characterizes the Eagle Eye as offering “blunt provocative commentary” that defied typical journalistic convention and functioned as “aggressive advocacy journalism.” High employed colorful language in his attacks on the state and white supremacist organizations, calling Mississippi “Murder, Inc.” and the Citizens’ Council “the baby of Murder, Inc.” After researching the educational backgrounds of Mississippi’s state legislators, High asserted, “The average member of our State Legislature cannot tell the Constitution of both the State and the U.S. from that of a Sears-Roebuck catalog.” He regarded Mississippi and Alabama as “the restrooms for white hoodlumism” and asked, “What is the difference between Southern white supremacy and communism? They both stand for enslavement.” According to Julius Eric Thompson, issues that recurred in the newspaper included the gross inequality of segregated education. High predicted in September 1954 that black students would soon attend the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State, Delta State, and the University of Southern Mississippi. Another theme was the willingness of white men to achieve “bedroom integration” with black women while maintaining segregation in public life. High also often urged black domestics to take care of their own children rather than those of their white employers. In March 1956 High wrote that Martin Luther King Jr. was a “dynamic young leader” and lauded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for “wrecking the hell out of white supremacy in the South.” High also praised Dr. T. R. M. Howard, a Mound Bayou doctor and leader who founded the Regional Council of Negro Leadership in 1951.
As a native Mississippian with a white father and a black mother, High characterized his experience in the state as a “life of Hell.” High’s militant stance on civil rights led agents of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission to collect the Eagle Eye and track his movements. Also under surveillance was the Farish Street Newsstand, which sold not only High’s paper but also other liberal black newspapers, such as the Chicago Defender, while refusing to sell the conservative Jackson Advocate. Commission agents described High as a “troublemaker among the Negroes.” In August 1954 High was arrested for “distributing literature without a permit,” but a judge declared that the Eagle Eye was a newspaper and was covered by freedom of the press laws. The following year, according to High, he was declared a “lunatic” and was held behind bars for five months at the Mississippi State Asylum in Whitfield, finally escaping to Chicago in a coffin. According to High, his confinement resulted from the fact that any African American in Mississippi who “will not be cowed by cross burning, frequent jailings, floggings and threats must be insane.” High continued to publish the Eagle Eye from Chicago. However, he was later diagnosed with paranoia, and at least some issues of the paper contain bizarre writings: for example, in November 1967, under the heading “White Lesbians Secrets,” High alleged that “every [Mississippi] county but one have a White Lesbians Association” and reported that “A Yazoo City White woman was elected state chairman of the ‘Lesbians Murder Committee,’” which would execute any “‘White Lesbians’ who fail to live up to the oath of loyalty to the ‘Lesbians Association.’”
- Steven D. Classen, Watching Jim Crow: The Struggles over Mississippi TV, 1955–1969 (2004)
- Jackson Eagle Eye (September 1954–May 1967); Jet (16 May 1988)
- Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Sovereignty Commission Online website, http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/sovcom/
- Charles M. Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle (1995)
- Julius Eric Thompson, The Black Press in Mississippi, 1865–1985 (1993); Time (17 January 1955)