by Tim Gilmore, 7/01/2012
In 1997, in the second term of Bill Clinton’s presidency, before the election of George W. Bush, Jerry Driggers lives in a doublewide trailer on the property of Thomas Jefferson Elementary, where he has lived for 11 years, just off Bulls Bay Highway and (improbably) Driggers Street in Marietta. As night watchman at the elementary school, he lives in the trailer for free. He’s worked as a Duval County Public Schools maintenance man for three decades.
The school’s address is the same as Driggers’s address, and these addresses are the same as that for the national hotline for the National Association for the Advancement of White People. The NAAWP was founded in 1980 by David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, in obvious mockery of the NAACP, founded in 1909 to help former slaves and their descendants become full citizens.
In one issue of the NAAWP’s newsletter, its editor wrote that each “hyphenated American” should get two bullets to the back of the head and the victims’ families should be billed for the bullets.
The local school board is conflicted over Driggers and the NAAWP. Interim school Superintendant Donald Van Fleet says Driggers has one month to pack up his things and get off school property, which is not supposed to be used for political purposes of any kind. School Board member Linda Sparks, however, appoints Susan Lamb, founder of the Jacksonville chapter of the NAAWP, to a school desegregation task force.
On September 13, 30 local NAAWP members gather at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School to protest Driggers’s eviction. One protester says the NAACP “is behind everything,” they run the country, “they control our schools.” The NAAWP newsletter talks about how Jews “divide and conquer thru race war,” and how the idea of “Negro inferiority” binds “common sense with science.”
The protests don’t stop the eviction. NAAWP’s regional director Tommy Prater says the interim school superintendent has “turned out to be gutless,” and accuses him of giving in to the NAACP. “Nothing has changed,” he says.
And then that doublewide trailer is empty. And then George W. Bush becomes president and starts two wars in dark-skinned countries. And then the United States elects a black president. And then 273 Confederate flags are flown at once in sparsely populated Marietta on the rural far Westside of Jacksonville.