In 1965, Frank De Felitta produced an NBC News documentary about the white attitudes toward race in the American South, and the tensions of life in the Mississippi Delta during the Civil Rights struggle.
White southern viewers were outraged over the documentary, mainly at the scene where Mississippi waiter, Booker Wright gave a heartfelt interview about what it was like to work in a “whites only” restaurant. Wright spoke straight to the camera, and straight from the heart.
The film begins with Wright quoting the restaurant menu, then he gives a heartfelt description of the racism and humiliation he dealt with on a daily basis.
“Now that’s what my customers, I say my customers are expecting from me,” he began. “Some people nice. Some is not. Some call me Booker. Some call me John. Some call me Jim. Some call me n****r! All of that hurts but you have to smile. The meaner the man be the more you have to smile, even though you’re crying on the inside.
“You’re wondering what else can I do. Sometimes he’ll tip you, sometimes he’ll say, ‘I’m not gonna tip that n****r, he don’t look for no tip.’ I say, ‘Yes sir, thank you.’ I’m trying to make a living.”
“Night after night I lay down and I dream about what I had to go through with. I don’t want my children to have to go through with that. I want them to get the job they feel qualified. That’s what I’m struggling for,” Booker concluded.
After the documentary aired, Wright was met with severe backlash. Wright’s business, Booker’s Place, was firebombed, of course, his job working at Lusco’s restaurant was over, a position which he held for twenty-five years, and he was pistol-whipped by a Greenwood police officer. Wright was murdered in 1973.
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