"There’s just been something in the atmosphere"

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there was a 15 percent increase in the number of hate groups tracked in 2015, partially attributed to the Trump candidacy and controversies over the Confederate flag. African Americans such as Sterling said they didn’t need those statistics to sense a change. They said they felt it in looks and stares from white people on the street and in being ignored when they entered gas stations or convenience stores.

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“My family has worked so hard to reconcile the races,” said Sterling, 48, a distant cousin of Emmett Till, who was abducted, brutalized and murdered in 1955 at the age of 14 after he had allegedly whistled at a white woman. The white men who killed him were acquitted by an all-white jury; no one would be convicted in the case until 2004.

“In Mississippi, it’s been hard. But Trump is making it harder . . . by getting people excited about making America like it was in the past,” Sterling said. “Does he know about the past?”

Bobby McGowan, an African American county board supervisor, said that a few weeks ago he was driving a charter bus through a rural area outside Jackson when some young white men threw rocks at him.

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