As an adult, Walling discovered her father's complicity in the murder of two black men on December 12, 1946, in Anguilla, deep in the Mississippi Delta. Death in the Delta tells the story of one woman's search for the truth behind a closely held, sixty-year-old family secret.
After her father’s hearing before an all-white grand jury, his case was not prosecuted. Indeed, it appeared as if the incident never occurred, and he resumed his life as a small-town newspaper editor. Walling’s long-standing apprehension turned into a consuming need to know.
“Dad…shot a man?”
Immediately I started pacing back and forth between the den and kitchen, rubbing my forehead so this news could come in. Jay picked up the conversation, sharing other family news that was more mundane in nature. But I wasn’t listening to him.
I couldn’t believe what he had told me. It rattled around in my brain for the next couple of days, challenging long-held beliefs that I held about my father. I felt deeply confused, didn’t sleep, couldn’t think about anything else. Though I trusted Uncle Tom to get things right, I wasn’t sure I could believe this story. Why was Dad there? Who did he shoot? What provoked it? I caught myself standing still, shaking my head. This dreadful event had to have happened in the mid ‘40s when Mom and Dad were newly married and living near my grandmother Fields on the family plantation in the Mississippi Delta.
Death in the Delta is now available from UPM.