Letters to the Editor

Benton’s past is relevant

A Psalm and a message of solidarity on a downtown shop window was on display earlier this month in the wake of the shooting that killed two students at nearby Marshall County High School in Benton.
A Psalm and a message of solidarity on a downtown shop window was on display earlier this month in the wake of the shooting that killed two students at nearby Marshall County High School in Benton. New York Times

A recent New York Times article, like all others devoted to the topic of the school shooting in Benton, neglects to mention a related fact: This hamlet could be considered to have been a “sundown town” — sometimes called a “sunset” or “gray town” — that practiced racial segregation through discriminatory laws, harassment and violence.

Tennessee Williams refers to one of these locales in his play, “Orpheus Descending,” and Maya Angelou describes them in her memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”: “Don’t let the sun set on you here ...”

The remnants of this past survive in Benton: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the current population is 97.3 percent white (4,235 out of a total 4,349). Benton is the seat of Marshall County, which voted 78.8 percent in favor of Donald Trump in 2016.

The connections among retrograde politics, racism and hostility to gun control are disgraceful and clear.

Edward F. Stanton

UK professor emeritus

Lexington

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