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The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi

Ted Ownby

Publication Year: 2013

Based on new research and combining multiple scholarly approaches, these twelve essays tell new stories about the civil rights movement in the state most resistant to change. Wesley Hogan, Françoise N. Hamlin, and Michael Vinson Williams raise questions about how civil rights organizing took place. Three pairs of essays address African Americans' and whites' stories on education, religion, and the issues of violence. Jelani Favors and Robert Luckett analyze civil rights issues on the campuses of Jackson State University and the University of Mississippi. Carter Dalton Lyon and Joseph T. Reiff study people who confronted the question of how their religion related to their possible involvement in civil rights activism. By studying the Ku Klux Klan and the Deacons for Defense in Mississippi, David Cunningham and Akinyele Umoja ask who chose to use violence or to raise its possibility.

The final three chapters describe some of the consequences and continuing questions raised by the civil rights movement. Byron D'Andra Orey analyzes the degree to which voting rights translated into political power for African American legislators. Chris Myers Asch studies a Freedom School that started in recent years in the Mississippi Delta. Emilye Crosby details the conflicting memories of Claiborne County residents and the parts of the civil rights movement they recall or ignore.

As a group, the essays introduce numerous new characters and conundrums into civil rights scholarship, advance efforts to study African Americans and whites as interactive agents in the complex stories, and encourage historians to pull civil rights scholarship closer toward the present.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xxvii

Beginning as part of the Porter Fortune, Jr. History Symposium at the University of Mississippi, this collection of essays attempts to raise some new questions and tell some new stories about the history of the civil rights movement in Mississippi....

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Grassroots Organizing in Mississippi That Changed National Politics

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pp. 3-34

There are three ways of organizing any government: around organized money, organized military, or organized people. Our libraries and classrooms are filled with books about societies that have created governments based on organized money or organized militaries. The scholarship is shockingly...

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Collision and Collusion: Local Activism, Local Agency, and Flexible Alliances

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pp. 35-58

As a scholar and teacher of the black freedom struggle in the United States, iI am often asked why there is not another civil rights movement. Why did direct action and activism work so well then, and where is it now? I teach primarily in the Northeast to those with little experience of the South and its...

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The Struggle for Black Citizenship: Medgar Wiley Evers and the Fight for Civil Rights in Mississippi

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pp. 59-89

This essay briefly examines the history and activism of Medgar Wiley Evers and his participation in the African American struggle for full citizenship rights.1 Here I examine some of the social, political, and cultural firestorms that raged throughout the mid-1950s and early 1960s and their impact upon...

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Trouble in My Way: Curriculum, Conflict, and Confrontation at Jackson State University, 1945–1963

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pp. 90-122

George Swan returned to the campus of Jackson State University in the fall of 1947, eager to bear witness to what he had just experienced. That October Swan stood shoulder to shoulder with 1,000 other students from black colleges and secondary schools who gathered in Columbia, South Carolina,...

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“Hell Fired Out of Him”: The Muting of James Silver in Mississippi

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pp. 123-137

Members of the Southern Historical Association (SHA) who attended the 1963 annual meeting in Asheville, North Carolina, witnessed one of the most significant addresses ever made to that organization. As president of the SHA that year, James Silver delivered a damning blow to the Jim Crow...

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“Doing a Little Something to Pave the Way for Others”: Participants of the Church Visit Campaign to Challenge Jackson’s Segregated Sanctuaries, 1963–1964

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pp. 138-156

For ten months beginning in June 1963, the entrances of white churches in Mississippi’s capital city became some of the key battlegrounds in the national struggle over civil rights. On most Sundays, integrated groups attempted to attend worship services at all-white Protestant and Catholic...

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“Born of Conviction”: White Mississippians Argue Civil Rights in 1963

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pp. 157-179

Imagine you are a white Methodist preacher in Mississippi in the early 1960s. You grew up in the 1930s and 1940s in a segregated world and simply accepted it as reality. Then as a Methodist teenager or college student at Millsaps or Mississippi Southern, you were exposed to a few speakers,...

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Shades of Anti–Civil Rights Violence: Reconsidering the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi

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pp. 180-203

There is no more resonant embodiment of southern white resistance to racial integration than the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). White hoods, burning crosses, and other KKK iconography are familiar even to the most casual student of civil rights–era racial struggles. Popular accounts of anti–civil rights...

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“It’s Time for Black Men . . .”: The Deacons for Defense and the Mississippi Movement

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pp. 204-229

The documentary film Black Natchez opens with an oath taken by an initiate of the paramilitary Deacons for Defense. Deacons member James Jackson repeated the beginning of the oath that Natchez activist John Fitzgerald administered to him. The oath began “I do solemnly swear that I...

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Robert Clark and the Ascendancy to Black Power: The Case of the Mississippi Black State Legislators

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pp. 230-249

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 arguably serves as the most important legislative victory for blacks, save for the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. Indeed, prior to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, blacks in Mississippi had not been able to elect an African American to the...

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“The Movement Is in You”: The Sunflower County Freedom Project and the Lessons of the Civil Rights Past

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pp. 250-265

As a fifth-grade public school teacher in Sunflower, Mississippi, in the mid-1990s, I discovered to my delight that our school library had a complete set of Eyes on the Prize, the extraordinary Blackside documentary about the civil rights movement. I had planned to incorporate civil rights history...

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“Looking the Devil in the Eye”: Race Relations and the Civil Rights Movement in Claiborne County History and Memory

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pp. 266-299

In my research on the black freedom struggle in Claiborne County, Mississippi, and its county seat of Port Gibson, I have found that there is remarkable consistency in the stories that blacks and whites tell.1 But though the details are similar, the meanings they attach to these stories are quite different...


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pp. 301-302


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pp. 303-318

E-ISBN-13: 9781617039331
E-ISBN-10: 1626740038
Print-ISBN-13: 9781626740037

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Race discrimination -- Mississippi -- History -- 20th century.
  • African American civil rights workers -- Mississippi -- Biography.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- Mississippi -- History -- 20th century
  • Civil rights movements -- Mississippi -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mississippi -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
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