In a TikTok posted on Saturday (July 22), former minor league baseball player Danny Collins did a deep dive on one of Aldean’s promotional TikToks for his controversial song released back in May. Zooming in on a newspaper article in the background of one of the video’s shots, Collins found that it appears to be a piece pulled from a since-discontinued small newspaper from Mississippi.
Finding the original article in an online archive, Collins shared that the clipping used for the video looks to be from a 1956 issue of The Petal Paper in Petal, Miss., in which a public relations consultant for the NAACP wrote to the publication’s editor P.D. East, commending him for using his platform to ridicule white supremacists and criticize the Jim Crow era policy of segregation in schools.
“Never have I seen anything that startled me as much as the March 15 issue of the Petal Paper with its incredible ridiculing of the White Citizens Council crowd. I’m referring specifically to the full-page as I assume you wrote headed, ‘You Too, Can Be Superior,’” the letter read. “I hope I am not congratulating a dead man. This must have taken courage and I hope you are still with us.”
Collins goes on to read portions of East’s response letter, in which the editor detailed being called an “N-lover,” losing subscriptions to his paper and being “bothered and harassed” continually by citizens of his town. In a 1971 column written for The New York Times, East further detailed his experience, saying his open criticism of school segregation led to him losing every subscriber of the Petal Paper, and at one point receiving three death threats in a single week.
In closing his TikTok, Collins pointed back to the accusations against Aldean of including thinly veiled racist dogwhistles throughout his song’s video, saying that the inclusion of this letter to East in the promotional clip felt very on the nose. “Why would this happen to Mr. P.D. East? Because he tried that in a small town,” Collins said. “He challenged the Southern, racist establishment. But let Jason Aldean tell it … and this song has ‘nothing’ to do with race.”
Billboard has reached out to Aldean for comment.
Billboard broke the news on July 18 that CMT had pulled Aldean’s video for the song from their airwaves. In response to the criticism of his song, the country singer shared a comment across his social media accounts, claiming that the accusations of racist songwriting against him were wrong. “There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it and there isn’t a single video clip that isn’t real news footage,” he wrote. “While I can try and respect others to have their own interpretation of a song with music — this one goes too far.”
“Try That in a Small Town” was written by Kelley Lovelace, Neil Thrasher, Tully Kennedy and Kurt Michael Allison.
Check out Collins’ full TikTok below: