Cover

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Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xi

I hardly knew when this project came up in a casual conversation with my good friend, the writer and poet Jerry Ward, that it would occupy me for the next fifteen years. The subject arose as we discussed the Mississippi civil rights movement and the necessity of documenting and assessing the period. Ward noted that...

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Introduction

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pp. xiii-xxi

The racial system in Mississippi in the 1940s made any project for social change a tall order, unlikely to be carried off by a single individual. The organized repression and the deeply ingrained rituals inevitably required a variety of forces to overturn this system. Even so, among the multiple leaders that eventually emerged...

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Chapter One: Son of Sharecroppers and Entrepreneurs

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pp. 1-18

The fate of an African American boy born into the Mississippi Delta of the 1920s was fairly predictable: a life of subservience in a racial caste system. Aaron Henry was born into this milieu in 1922. Webb and Clarksdale, his boyhood homes, thrived from cotton sowed, tended, and harvested by African Americans...

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Chapter Two: Military Service, Family, and Profession

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pp. 19-48

Aaron Henry received a draft notice from the army in early 1943 and reported being inducted shortly before his July 2 birthday. He initially trained at Camp Shelby outside of Hattiesburg, 240 miles south of Clarksdale.1 He entered a military service that had not sorted out how to handle African American...

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Chapter Three: Henry, the NAACP, and Indigenous Leadership

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pp. 49-84

The social movement, perhaps more easily than most other conceptualizations of massive social change, captures the spirit of contentious affairs in Mississippi of the mid-1950s. The gathering forces challenged the status quo in this deeply segregated state with its notions of ordained white supremacy and domination...

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Chapter Four: Demanding Restoration of the Black Franchise

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pp. 85-112

The scope of Aaron Henry’s activity had gone beyond Clarksdale long before the heady days of statewide mobilization in 1963 and 1964. By this time, however, with the death of Medgar Evers, Henry was the indigenous leader on a trajectory to the forefront of the campaign. This made the election he won as state NAACP...

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Chapter Five: An Alternative to the Segregated State Democratic Party

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pp. 113-136

Following Freedom Vote, the civil rights activists and the proponents of segregation ratcheted up their activities. The civil rights forces escalated via a statewide registration campaign, while the white authorities and their supporters met these efforts with intensified violence, murder, and intimidation, while the state...

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Chapter Six: Henry the Public Entrepreneur and Network Tactician

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pp. 137-166

In the transition and lull that succeeded the failed MFDP effort at the convention, a critical question remained how and on what terms would the momentum of the Mississippi movement be continued. Initiatives decreased from both SNCC and CORE, the anchors for the summer campaign, hastened by the withdrawal...

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Chapter Seven: Private and Public Entrepreneurship for Redistributive Justice

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pp. 167-192

The transition of the Mississippi movement following the failure of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the Democratic Party convention of 1964 left many within the coalition dispirited. It affected Henry too, but he remained involved in many projects that reflected his enduring comprehensive...

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Chapter Eight: Taking the Reins of the State Democratic Party

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pp. 193-228

Aaron Henry built up tremendous capital in the interval between the 1964 and 1968 national Democratic conventions, but not enough to fundamentally alter the power disparity between the races in Mississippi. While many of the projects that he started after the 1964 convention resulted in considerable resources...

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Chapter Nine: The Summit and Culmination

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pp. 229-256

It may have been inevitable that Henry, the social movement leader, would evolve to compete in the arena of electoral politics. After all, the power of political office is a heralded benefit of the North American democratic experiment. It should be little surprise that he and some other activists in the civil rights movement...

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Conclusion and Postscript

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pp. 257-270

The Aaron Henry legacy is one of the most significant in the general history of political leadership in Mississippi, and equally significant within the cast of indigenous African American and civil rights leaders the state has produced. As a state leader there simply is no other person who exceeds Henry’s importance...

Notes

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pp. 271-322

Bibliography

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pp. 323-344

Index

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pp. 345-367