So the Heffners Left McComb


Hodding Carter II

Hodding Carter Jr.

So the Heffners Left McComb (1965), by Pulitzer prize winning journalist Hodding Carter Jr., is an exposé of how whites were “kept in line” during the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi.

Carter tells the true story of the Heffners, a white family who put one toe over the great racial divide and found themselves instantly shunned and terrorized. During Freedom Summer (1964), the Heffners were run out of town for simply having a conversation with civil rights workers at their home.

This book is ideal for helping students understand the level of repression used to try to prevent whites from being an ally with the freedom movement in Mississippi during the 1960s.

Here is a brief summary of this powerful story:

Insurance salesman Albert William “Red” Heffner and his wife Mary Alva “Malva” moved to McComb in the 1950s with their children Carla and Jan Nave.

Jan Heffner

Jan Heffner

So the Heffners Left McComb cover

Carla Heffner

Carla Heffner

The HeffnersThe Heffners were respected members of the community. Their status was part of social elite was elevated when Jan Nave was selected as Miss Mississippi in 1963.

Suddenly, in the midst of Freedom Summer, their lives turned upside down.

After the seemingly harmless act of hosting civil rights workers Reverend Donald McCord of COFO and Dennis Sweeny of SNCC for a conversation their home, racist whites began a campaign of terrorism against them.

Carter explained, “Death threats, a poisoned pet, and cars circling the home at night were tactics of oppression used towards the Heffners. After being harassed, seeing the family dog poisoned, and having Red Heffner’s office lease cancelled, the Heffners were forced to move to Jackson and later to Washington, D.C.”

Download So the Heffners Left McComb

So the Heffners Left McComb is currently out of print. We are pleased to report that the University of Mississippi Press will reprint the book in 2016.

In the meantime, thanks to the generous permission of William Hodding Carter III, we are able to provide this book as a downloadable PDF for classroom use for teachers. Note, this permission is only for non-commercial, educational purposes. This does not include permission for reprinting nor for commercial use.

Due to the large size of the files, it is offered here in three PDF sections.

So the Heffners Left McComb pages 1 – 53

So the Heffners Left McComb pages 54 – 95

So the Heffners Left McComb pages 96 – 142

Additional Resources

Interview with Jan Nave Barnes by students from McComb, Mississippi and San Francisco, California in April 2013 for the Telling Their Stories Oral History Archive Project.

Interview with Charles Dunagin by the William Winter Institute in January, 2005. Dunagin, editor for the Enterprise Journal and on the school board for McComb, shares his memories of the Heffners. 

Freedom Summer (PBS). The story of the Heffners is included in this 2014 film by Stanley Nelson.

Credit: Written by Hodding Carter. Published by Doubleday, 1965.