Posted on 01/23/2014

Photo taken on July  1, 1962

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Booker Wright
African American Man
Land of the Free ... for some
Unsung Hero
Lusco's Restaurant
Booker's Place

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Photo replaced on February 10, 2014
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Booker's Place

Booker's Place
In 1965, filmmaker Frank De Felitta produced an NBC News documentary about white attitudes towards race in the American South and the tensions of life in the Mississippi Delta during the Civil Rights struggle. The film outraged some Southern viewers, in part, because of a candid and unforgettable scene featuring Booker Wright, a local African-American waiter in Greenwood, Mississippi. Wright, who worked at a local “whites only” restaurant, went on national television to deliver a stunning and heartfelt monologue about his true feelings about serving the white community, and about his aspirations for his children, who he hoped would grow up free from the prejudice he faced.

When the cameras were turned on Wright, what began as a recitation of the menu turned into his chance to serve up the cold truth about the racism and humiliation he experienced every day on the job. After the special aired, there were tragic consequences to his outspokenness: Wright’s own business (Booker's Place) was firebombed, his twenty-five year job at Lusco's was over and he was pistol whipped by a Greenwood police officer. In 1973, Wright was murdered. Filmmaker Frank De Felitta wondered if the footage he aired of Wright was responsible.

Transcript of Wright's monologue: “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 nigger! 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 nigger, he don’t look for no tip.’ I say, ‘Yes sir, thank you.’ I’m trying to make a living.”

For nearly two minutes, Booker Wright, spoke straight to the camera, and straight from the heart.

“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.

In 2012, almost fifty years after Booker Wright’s television appearance, his granddaughter Yvette Johnson, Frank De Felitta’s son, director Raymond De Felitta, journeyed into the Mississippi Delta in search of answers with a documentary called, 'Finding Booker's Place': Who exactly was Booker Wright? What was the mystery surrounding his courageous life and untimely murder? And what role did the 1965 NBC News documentary play in his fate?

Booker Wright’s name does not appear in history books but his courageous act demonstrated a legacy that continues to inspire, many decades later.

Documentary: Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story (2012); TakePart, by Stephen Saito;
bookerwright.com; The Booker Wright Project

Here is a 2 minute and 26 second video of Mr. Wright from 1965:
3 years ago. Edited 3 years ago.