"It's just unbelievable how hateful some people can be," she said. But then she decides that maybe a black president isn't such a bad idea. "If he goes in there and does a remarkable job, maybe some will say, 'Hey, maybe I didn't have the right feeling about that situation.' But as far as Neshoba County goes? You will never get nobody to admit it."
The South of the Old Confederacy is changing, outpacing the rest of the country in population growth and jobs -- CNN, Coca-Cola and FedEx are headquartered there. Once-rural states like Georgia, Florida and Tennessee now have more racially tolerant metropolitan centers.
But in Deep South states like this one, change has come more slowly. Two Indian casinos outside of town have boosted the economy, and Philadelphia is, as they like to say, fixin' to get a bowling alley.
A stronger black leadership has stepped up to demand better police protection and community services, such as equal distribution of parks money, making sure the one in the black neighborhood doesn't get short shrift.
James Prince, editor and publisher of the Neshoba County Democrat, framed the progress this way: "There are people who, if they could get away with not doing the work in the black park, probably would, but they are not going to get away with it."
Patricia Madison is a clerk at All About Her, a boutique that sells purses a few doors down from Long's nail salon. It's owned by a young black woman, and that in itself is a departure from how things used to be.
Still, Madison, a 39-year-old African American, can point to uneasy moments. A restaurant with an all-white staff advertised for a waitress, but wouldn't give her a second look. When her white friend invited her to her wedding and the groom's parents objected, she stayed away so as not to create a disturbance.
Maybe Obama's candidacy -- or presidency -- could help break stubborn stereotypes, she mused, sipping a soda between customers. "Maybe people might view us different -- see that we are not ignorant. Some of us have class. We can do more than work in the kitchen and be somebody's housekeeper."
Just about any adult you talk with here has experienced racial prejudice from one side or the other. Steve Wilkerson, a white lifelong resident of Philadelphia, worked in high school for a service station with one bathroom for men, one for women and one for "coloreds." The first two were cleaned daily, the third once a week.
Now Wilkerson, 55, owns Steve's on the Square, a landmark clothing store downtown. He is a member of a multiracial commission that has worked to bring healing to Philadelphia: The attorney general issued a formal apology, and Highway 19 now bears the names of the activists who died there: Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old white college student from New York; Michael Schwerner, a 24-year-old white social worker also from New York; and James Chaney, a 21-year-old black man from nearby Meridian.
But Obama's strong performance in a county that is 65% white is less a sign of racial tolerance than of white flight to the Republican Party. Those voting in the Democratic primary were mainly African American or white liberals.
Wilkerson predicted Obama will have a hard time winning Mississippi's white voters in November. Those who do support him will do so discreetly.
"They won't have bumper stickers and lawn signs. It would not be comfortable."
On this warm, humid night, Margaret White, 54, stood outside Mt. Zion, the church she has attended all her life. Today it is rebuilt in fire-resistant brick rather than wood. The old bell -- all that was left from the arson -- is in place and a gray stone engraved with three names stands outside the sanctuary, laid with a wreath every June.
It's a proud time for the church, but there are no high-fives or yelps for Obama's victory. "Low-key is the way," the Rev. Willie Young tells his flock.
White went into work clapping her hands the morning after Obama won. But she was careful not to flaunt her enthusiasm in front of her white colleagues at Mississippi State University, where she works as a program assistant teaching nutrition. "Here, you have to know somebody to get a job," she said. "You can't afford to tick people off."
She doesn't hold much hope that Obama's rise will reform old-school Southerners, but she can't help but notice the changing attitude of the next generation drawn to his candidacy.
Color is not the dividing wall it once was. While neighborhoods remain somewhat segregated, workplaces are more diverse, biracial couples more common. Children -- black and white -- play together on sports teams; they grow up not only to attend each other's weddings, but to take part as bridesmaids and groomsmen.
"One day, the old history will just die off and race will still be there, but it won't matter so much," White said, swatting away the mosquitoes as children, freed from Bible study, ran in circles around the memorial stone, oblivious to its meaning.