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Aaron Henry of Mississippi
Inside Agitator
Minion K. C. Morrison
University of Arkansas Press, 2015
Winner of the 2016 Lillian Smith Book Award

When Aaron Henry returned home to Mississippi from World War II service in 1946, he was part of wave of black servicemen who challenged the racial status quo. He became a pharmacist through the GI Bill, and as a prominent citizen, he organized a hometown chapter of the NAACP and relatively quickly became leader of the state chapter.

From that launching pad he joined and helped lead an ensemble of activists who fundamentally challenged the system of segregation and the almost total exclusion of African Americans from the political structure. These efforts were most clearly evident in his leadership of the integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation, which, after an unsuccessful effort to unseat the lily-white Democratic delegation at the Democratic National Convention in 1964, won recognition from the national party in 1968.

The man who the New York Times described as being “at the forefront of every significant boycott, sit-in, protest march, rally, voter registration drive and court case” eventually became a rare example of a social-movement leader who successfully moved into political office. Aaron Henry of Mississippi covers the life of this remarkable leader, from his humble beginnings in a sharecropping family to his election to the Mississippi house of representatives in 1979, all the while maintaining the social-change ideology that prompted him to improve his native state, and thereby the nation.
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After Freedom
A Cultural Study In The Deep South
Hortense Powdermaker
University of Wisconsin Press, 1993
First published in 1939, After Freedom is the first complete ethnography of an African American community in the United States.
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American Congo
Nan Elizabeth Woodruff
Harvard University Press, 2003

This is the story of how rural Black people struggled against the oppressive sharecropping system of the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta during the first half of the twentieth century. Here, white planters forged a world of terror and poverty for Black workers, one that resembled the horrific deprivations of the African Congo under Belgium’s King Leopold II.

Delta planters did not cut off the heads and hands of their African American workers but, aided by local law enforcement, they engaged in peonage, murder, theft, and disfranchisement. As individuals and through collective struggle, in conjunction with national organizations like the NAACP and local groups like the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union, Black men and women fought back, demanding a just return for their crops and laying claim to a democratic vision of citizenship. Their efforts were amplified by the two world wars and the depression, which expanded the mobility and economic opportunities of Black people and provoked federal involvement in the region.

Nan Woodruff shows how the freedom fighters of the 1960s would draw on this half-century tradition of protest, thus expanding our standard notions of the civil rights movement and illuminating a neglected but significant slice of the American Black experience.

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And I Said No Lord
A Twenty-One-Year-Old in Mississippi in 1964
Joel Katz
University of Alabama Press, 2014
Photographer and writer Joel Katz presents a pictorial chronicle of his travels through the shifting islands of fear and loss, freedom and deliverance that was segregated Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964
 
In June 1964, college student Joel Katz boarded a Greyhound bus in Hartford, Connecticut, for Jackson, Mississippi. He carried few possessions—a small bag of clothes, a written invitation to call on Frank Barber, who was special assistant to Governor Paul Johnson, and a Honeywell Pentax H1-A camera with three lenses.
 
A few days after his arrival in Jackson, the city’s Daily News ran on its front page an FBI alert seeking Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, three field workers from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) who’d gone missing while investigating a church burning in Neshoba County. In the uneasy silence of their disappearance, Katz began a seven-week journey across the state. Along the way, he met the people of Mississippi, black and white, of all ages and classes, from the humble to the grand. These Mississippians encouraged or obstructed change in their traditional culture or simply observed the edifice of that culture tremble and fall.
 
During 1964’s Freedom Summer, Katz met ministers making history and journalists writing it. He photographed Martin Luther King Jr. and James Abernathy, taught at a freedom school, interviewed a leader of the White Citizens Councils, was harassed by Jackson police, and escaped death in Vicksburg. Six weeks after Katz arrived in Mississippi, the FBI found the bodies of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner in an earthen dam.
 
Inspired by the social documentary photographs of Walker Evans and Robert Frank, Katz snapped hauntingly quotidian photos on his Pentax camera. Amid acts of brutal savagery and transcendent courage that transfixed the nation, Katz discovered resilient individuals living quiet lives worthy of witness. And I Said No Lord is a moving and luminous record of Americans in evolution.
 
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A Bachelor's Life In Antebellum Mississippi
The Diary Of Dr. Elijah Millington Walker
Lynette Boney Wrenn
University of Tennessee Press, 2004

“This is a splendid diary of a man and physician during the late antebellum years, sure to interest not only historians of medicine but also historians of gender, the South, and antebellum politics. . . . An exceptionally useful historical document as well as a good read.” —Steven M. Stowe, Indiana University

Elijah Millington Walker began to keep a diary midway through his medical apprenticeship in Oxford, Mississippi. He composed a lengthy preface to the diary, in which he remembered his life from the time of his family’s arrival in north Mississippi in 1834, when he was ten years old, until late 1848, when the University of Mississippi opened and Walker’s diary begins.

On one level, the diary records the life of a bachelor, chronicling the difficulties of an ambitious young physician who would like to marry but is hampered by poverty and his professional aspirations. Walker details the qualities he desires in a wife and criticizes women who do not measure up; a loyal wife, in Walker’s highly romanticized image, remains a true helpmeet even to the most debased drunkard. On another level, Walker describes various medical cases, giving readers an idea of the kinds of diseases prevalent in the lower South at mid-century, as well as their treatment by orthodox physicians. In this vivid chronicle of everyday life in antebellum Mississippi, Walker also finds space to comment on a wide range of topics that affected the state and the region, including pioneer life in north Mississippi, evangelical Protestantism, the new state university at Oxford, the threat of secession in 1849–50, Henry Clay’s Compromise of 1850, foreign affairs, and local railroad development. A strong defender of the Union at mid-century, Walker nonetheless defended slavery and distinctively Southern institutions.

A Bachelor’s Life in Antebellum Mississippi brings to the public one of the few diaries of a very intelligent yet “ordinary” man, a non-elite member of a society dominated by a planter aristocracy. The author’s frankness and flair for writing reflect a way of life not often seen; this volume will thus prove a valuable addition to the body of primary documents from the early republic.

Lynette Boney Wrenn has taught history at Memphis State University and Southwestern College. She is the author of Crisis and Commission Government in Memphis: Elite Rule in a Gilded Age City and Cinderella of the New South: A History of the Cottonseed Industry, 1855–1955. Wrenn lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.
 

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Before Mark Twain
A Sampler of Old, Old Times on the Mississippi
Edited by John Francis McDermott
Southern Illinois University Press, 1998

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Behind the Big House
Reconciling Slavery, Race, and Heritage in the U.S. South
Jodi Skipper
University of Iowa Press, 2022
2022 Anthropology of Tourism Interest Group Nelson Graburn Prize, winner

When residents and tourists visit sites of slavery, whose stories are told? All too often the lives of slaveowners are centered, obscuring the lives of enslaved people. Behind the Big House gives readers a candid, behind-the-scenes look at what it really takes to interpret the difficult history of slavery in the U.S. South. The book explores Jodi Skipper’s eight-year collaboration with the Behind the Big House program, a community-based model used at local historic sites to address slavery in the collective narrative of U.S. history and culture.

In laying out her experiences through an autoethnographic approach, Skipper seeks to help other activist scholars of color negotiate the nuances of place, the academic public sphere, and its ambiguous systems of reward, recognition, and evaluation.
 
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The Bloodworth Orphans
Leon Forrest
University of Chicago Press, 2001
Leon Forrest, acclaimed author of Divine Days, uses a remarkable verbal intensity to evoke human tragedy, injustice, and spirituality in his writing. As Toni Morrison has said, "All of Forrest's novels explore the complex legacy of Afro-Americans. Like an insistent tide this history . . . swells and recalls America's past. . . . Brooding, hilarious, acerbic and profoundly valued life has no more astute observer than Leon Forrest." All of that is on display here in a novel that give readers a breathtaking view of the human experience, filled with humor and pathos.

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Border Beagles
A Tale of Mississippi
William Gilmore Simms
University of Arkansas Press, 1996
With its rich variety of major and minor characters, speaking the language and reflecting the mores of the frontier, Border Beagles emerged upon the American literary scene in 1840 with a freshness and a vitality that mark the best of the realistic and humorous Southern tradition.
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Caste and Class in a Southern Town
John Dollard
University of Wisconsin Press, 1989

An extraordinary powerful exposition of social patterns in a small town, Caste and Class in a Southern Town has become a benchmark in social science methodology and a classic in American studies. Now fifty years after its original publication, John Dollard’s most famous work offers timeless insights and remains essential to those interested in race-related social issues.

In 1937, W. E. B. Du Bois observed, "Dr. Dollard’s study is one of the most interesting and penetrating that has been made concerning the South and is marked by courage and real insight. . . . Dr. Dollard’s book marks a distinct advance in the study of the Southern scene."

 

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Caught in the Path of Katrina
A Survey of the Hurricane's Human Effects
By J. Steven Picou and Keith Nicholls
University of Texas Press, 2019

In 2008, three years after Hurricane Katrina cut a deadly path along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, researchers J. Steven Picou and Keith Nicholls conducted a survey of the survivors in Louisiana and Mississippi, receiving more than twenty-five hundred responses, and followed up two years later with their than five hundred of the initial respondents. Showcasing these landmark findings, Caught in the Path of Katrina: A Survey of the Hurricane's Human Effects yields a more complete understanding of the traumas endured as a result of the Storm of the Century.

The authors report on evacuation behaviors, separations from family, damage to homes, and physical and psychological conditions among residents of seven of the parishes and counties that bore the brunt of Katrina. The findings underscore the frequently disproportionate suffering of African Americans and the agonizingly slow pace of recovery. Highlighting the lessons learned, the book offers suggestions for improved governmental emergency management techniques to increase preparedness, better mitigate storm damage, and reduce the level of trauma in future disasters. Multiple major hurricanes have unleashed their destruction in the years since Katrina, making this a crucial study whose importance only continues to grow.

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Choctaw Prophecy
A Legacy for the Future
Tom Mould
University of Alabama Press, 2002

Explores the power and artistry of prophecy among the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, who use predictions about the future to interpret the world around them

This book challenges the common assumption that American Indian prophecy was an anomaly of the 18th and 19th centuries that resulted from tribes across the continent reacting to the European invasion. Tom Mould’s study of the contemporary prophetic traditions of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians reveals a much larger system of prophecy that continues today as a vibrant part of the oral tradition.
 
Mould shows that Choctaw prophecy is more than a prediction of the future; it is a way to unite the past, present, and future in a moral dialogue about how one should live. Choctaw prophecy, he argues, is stable and continuous; it is shared in verbal discourse, inviting negotiation on the individual level; and, because it is a tradition of all the people, it manifests itself through myriad visions with many themes. In homes, casinos, restaurants, laundromats, day care centers, and grocery stores, as well as in ceremonial and political situations, people discuss current events and put them into context with traditional stories that govern the culture. In short, recitation is widely used in everyday life as a way to interpret, validate, challenge, and create the world of the Choctaw speaker.
 
Choctaw Prophecy stands as a sound model for further study into the prophetic traditions of not only other American Indian tribes but also communities throughout the world. Weaving folklore and oral tradition with ethnography, this book will be useful to academic and public libraries as well as to scholars and students of southern Indians and the modern South.
 
 

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The Confederate Belle
Giselle Roberts
University of Missouri Press, 2003
While historians have examined the struggles and challenges that confronted the Southern plantation mistress during the American Civil War, until now no one has considered the ways in which the conflict shaped the lives of elite young women, otherwise known as belles. In The Confederate Belle, Giselle Roberts uses diaries, letters, and memoirs to uncover the unique wartime experiences of young ladies in Mississippi and Louisiana. In the plantation culture of the antebellum South, belles enhanced their family’s status through their appearance and accomplishments and, later, by marrying well.
During the American Civil War, a new patriotic womanhood superseded the antebellum feminine ideal. It demanded that Confederate women sacrifice everything for their beloved cause, including their men, homes, fine dresses, and social occasions, to ensure the establishment of a new nation and the preservation of elite ideas about race, class, and gender. As menfolk answered the call to arms, southern matrons had to redefine their roles as mistresses and wives. Southern belles faced a different, yet equally daunting, task. After being prepared for a delightful “bellehood,” young ladies were forced to reassess their traditional rite of passage into womanhood, to compromise their understanding of femininity at a pivotal time in their lives. They found themselves caught between antebellum traditions of honor and of gentility, a binary patriotic feminine ideal and wartime reality.
Rather than simply sacrificing their socialization for patriotic womanhood, belles drew upon southern honor to strengthen their understanding of themselves as young Confederate women. They used honor to shape and legitimize their obligations to the wartime household. They used honor to fashion their role as patriotic women. They even used honor to frame their relationship to the cause. By drawing upon this powerful concept, young ladies ensured the basic preservation of an ideology of privilege. Their unique Confederate bellehoods would ultimately shape the ways in which they viewed themselves and the changed social landscape during the conflict—and after it.
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Confederate Guerrilla
The Civil War Memoir of Joseph M. Bailey
T. Lindsay Baker
University of Arkansas Press, 2007

Joseph M. Bailey’s memoir, Confederate Guerrilla, provides a unique perspective on the fighting that took place behind Union lines in Federal-occupied northwest Arkansas during and after the Civil War. This story—now published for the first time—will appeal to modern readers interested in the grassroots history of the Trans-Mississippi war. Bailey participated in the Battle of Pea Ridge and the siege of Port Hudson, eventually escaping to northwest Arkansas where he fought as a guerrilla against Federal troops and civilian unionists. After Federal forces gained control of the area, Bailey rejoined the Confederate army and continued in regular service in northeast Texas until the end of the war.

Historians will find the descriptions of military campaigns and the observations on guerrilla war especially valuable. According to Bailey, Southern guerrillas were motivated less by a sense of loyalty to either the Confederate or Union side than by a determination to protect their families and neighbors from the “Mountain Federals.” This partisan war waged between the rebel guerrillas and Southern Unionists was essentially a “struggle for supremacy and revenge.”

Comprehensive annotations are provided by editor T. Lindsay Baker to illuminate the clarity and reliability of Bailey’s late-life memoir.

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Dark Journey
Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow
Neil R. McMillen
University of Illinois Press, 1989
"Remarkable for its relentless truth-telling, and the depth and thoroughness of its investigation, for the freshness of its sources, and for the shock power of its findings. Even a reader who is not unfamiliar with the sources and literature of the subject can be jolted by its impact."--C. Vann Woodward, New York Review of Books
 
"Dark Journey is a superb piece of scholarship, a book that all students of southern and African-American history will find valuable and informative."--David J. Garrow, Georgia Historical Quarterly
 
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Delta Fragments
The Recollections of a Sharecropper's Son
John O. Hodges
University of Tennessee Press, 2013
    The son of black sharecroppers, John Oliver Hodges attended segregated schools in Greenwood, Mississippi, in the 1950s and ’60s, worked in plantation cotton fields, and eventually left the region to earn multiple degrees and become a tenured university professor. Both poignant and thought provoking,  Delta Fragments is Hodges’s autobiographical journey back to the land of his birth. Brimming with vivid memories of family life, childhood friendships, the quest for knowledge, and the often brutal injustices of the Jim Crow South, it also offers an insightful meditation on the present state of race relations in America.
     Hodges has structured the book as a series of brief but revealing vignettes grouped into two main sections. In part 1, “Learning,” he introduces us to the town of Greenwood and to his parents, sister, and myriad aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, and schoolmates. He tells stories of growing up on a plantation, dancing in smoky juke joints, playing sandlot football and baseball, journeying to the West Coast as a nineteen-year-old to meet the biological father he never knew while growing up, and leaving family and friends to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta. In part 2, “Reflecting,” he connects his firsthand experience with broader themes: the civil rights movement, Delta blues, black folkways, gambling in Mississippi, the vital role of religion in the African American community, and the perplexing problems of poverty, crime, and an underfunded educational system that still challenge black and white citizens of the Delta.
     Whether recalling the assassination of Medgar Evers (whom he knew personally), the dynamism of an African American church service, or the joys of reconnecting with old friends at a biennial class reunion, Hodges writes with a rare combination of humor, compassion, and—when describing the injustices that were all too frequently inflicted on him and his contemporaries—righteous anger. But his ultimate goal, he contends, is not to close doors but to open them: to inspire dialogue, to start a conversation, “to be provocative without being insistent or definitive.”
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Diary of Caroline Seabury
Caroline Seabury
University of Wisconsin Press, 1991

In 1854 Caroline Seabury of Brooklyn, New York, set out for Columbus, Mississippi, to teach French at its Institute for Young Ladies.  She lived in Columbus until 1863, through the years of mounting sectional bitterness that preceded the Civil War and through the turmoil and hardships of the war itself.  During that time, her most intimate confidant was her diary.  Discovered in the archives of the Minnesota State Historical Society, it is published here for the first time.
    The diary is an illuminating account of southern plantation society and the “peculiar institution” of slavery on the eve of its destruction.  Seabury also records her uneasy attempts to come to terms with her position as an unmarried, white, Northern woman whose job was to educate wealthy, white, Southern girls in a setting seemingly oblivious to the horrors of slavery.  The diary is not simply a chronicle of daily happenings; Seabury concentrates on remarkable events and the memorable feelings and ideas they generate, shaping them into entries that reveal her as an accomplished writer.  She frames her narrative with her journey south in 1854 and the hazardous and exhausting return north through battle lines in 1863.
    Disapproving of slavery, yet deeply attached to friends and her life in Columbus and also painfully conscious of the fragility of her own economic and social position, Seabury condemned privately in her diary the evils that she endured silently in public.  There are striking scenes of plantation life that depict the brutalities of slavery and benumbed responses to them.  Seabury also successfully captures the mood of Mississippi as it changed from a fire-eating appetite to fight the Yankees to a grim apprehension of inexorable defeat.  Most impressive of all is Seabury’s poignantly honest presentation of herself, caught in the middle.

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Dreaming the Mississippi
Katherine Fischer
University of Missouri Press, 2006
Offering a fresh perspective on the river’s environment, industry, and recreation, Dreaming the Mississippi challenges old stereotypes through the experiences of modern Americans who work the barges, rope-swing into muddy bottoms, struggle against hurricane floodwaters, and otherwise find new meaning on this great watery corridor. In an engaging voice, earnest and energetic, Katherine Fischer describes how the river’s natural and human histories overlap and interweave as she tells of her own gradual immersion in its life—which led her to buy a house so close to its banks that each spring she must open her basement doors to accept its inevitable floods.
            Fischer blends stories of people living along the river with accounts of national and global consequence. She weaves humorous accounts of river rats and towboat pilots with stories of sandbagging against a flood tide that refuses to be contained. She tells of river hangouts—“joints” that literally join segments of humanity along the river—as she revels in the colorful clientele of her favorite waterfront taverns. Some chapters connect the wildness of this mythical river to outside regions such as the Great Salt Lake and Florida, taking the lure of the mighty Mississippi as far as Japan. Another chapter, about the river’s mouth, “Gulf,” considers the gulf between engineers and naturalists—and between America’s haves and have-nots—as it offers heartfelt reflections on Katrina’s wrath.
            Through compelling words and photographs, Dreaming the Mississippi invites readers to taste life on today’s Mississippi, as sweet, tangy, and wildly cantankerous as it gets. In conveying her understanding of contemporary life along the river’s length, Katherine Fischer has much to teach us not only about reverence for this glorious American waterway but also about our eternal connections to the natural world.
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Even Mississippi
Melany Neilson
University of Alabama Press, 1989
Even Mississippi is a well-crafted and engaging account that is not only good reading but also a penetrating commentary on several social, political, and historical themes. This is the story of Robert Clark’s two unsuccessful campaigns for a Congressional seat, in 1982 and 1984, and is written by the young woman who served as the only white staff member during the first campaign and one of a few whites during the second. Using the campaign as a starting point, the author takes us on a journey into the Mississippi Delta, where the progress of the last two decades has eluded America’s truly forgotten poor, where blacks like Clark move from cotton rows to politics as they work toward a new way of life.
            Describing the isolation of a small town, Neilson recounts how the acculturation process worked in Mississippi and how it effectively molded blacks and whites. Even Mississippi is the story of a girl, a family, struggling with two powerful worlds, one dying and the other in the process of birth. Ole Miss, manners, and morals aside, there is something here that measure the heartbeat of what we once called “the South.” There are the genteel people and the plain folk, juke joints and Garden clubs, continuity and change, love and hate the good times and the bad. But it is Ed Tye, the author’s father, who is the personification of the struggle with the past that eventually loses out to the forces of change. Both black and white readers will appreciate his dilemma, his sense of loyalty, and his attachment to his family.
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Excavations at the Lake George Site, Yazoo Country, Mississippi, 1958–1960
Stephen Williams and Jeffrey P. Brain
Harvard University Press, 1983
This milestone volume describes and interprets excavations at one of the greatest late prehistoric sites in the southeastern United States. Lake George reached its zenith between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries A.D., during the florescence of the Mississippian culture. This is a detailed analysis of the site and its relationship to the corpus of Southeastern archaeology.
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Expedition of Hernando de Soto West of the Mississippi, 1541–1543
Proceedings of the de Soto Symposia, 1988 and 1990
Gloria Young
University of Arkansas Press, 1999

Back by popular demand and new in paperback, this spirited collection of nearly twenty papers celebrates the 450th anniversary of Hernando de Soto’s epic expedition across the Southeast and West.

Originally presented at two symposia conducted by the University Museum at the University of Arkansas, the collection offers an array of viewpoints and diverse approaches to de Soto scholarship. Archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, museum curators, and folklorists all contribute to this lively debate on the Spanish explorer and his travels.

The book focuses on research that challenges traditional interpretation of de Soto’s entrada and travel route, particularly after the expedition crossed the Mississippi River. David H. Dye hypothesizes a route across the river and the alluvial plain by linking the narrative accounts with geography and archaeological knowledge. Phyllis A. Morse asserts that the Parkin site is the location of the capital of Casqui, one of the polities visited by de Soto. Charles M. Hudson repostulates his version of the expedition route, which in 1988 severely challenged the De Soto Commission theory of 1939. Ann M. Early redraws the trail in the uplands of the Ouachita Mountains And Frank E. Schambach tests the possibility that the expedition wandered through Caddoan territory in east Texas after de Soto’s death.

Several chapters examine the Native Americans whom de Soto and his expedition encountered in their journey; other contributions provide a fresh look at the chronicles of the expedition that have survived. What emerges is a redrawn map of de Soto’s exploration—and a deeper understanding of the impact of European contact on the New World.

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Explorers Of The Mississippi
Timothy Severin
University of Minnesota Press, 2002

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Faces of Freedom Summer
Herbert Randall and Bobs M. Tusa
University of Alabama Press, 2001
Affirms, validates, and reiterates the yearning for an orderly, peaceful and just world

The old adage “One picture is worth ten thousand words” is definitely true for Faces of Freedom Summer. There are simply not enough words to describe the period in our history that is recorded by the pictures in this book.

As this book afirms, the resurgence of overt activities by hate groups—both the old traditional ones (e.g., the Ku Klux Klan) and the new ones (e.g., the Skin Heads)—however much the hard work and sacrifices of the modern civil rights movement humanized American society, much still remains to be done. The modern civil rights movement associated with the 1960s was not in vain, yet it did not eradicate from our society the evils of racism and sexism. While we activists made the United States more of an open society than it has ever been in its history, our vision and desire for the beloved community did not reach into all sectors of American society. “Freedom,” it has been said, “is a constant struggle, a work of eternal vigilance.”

Faces of Freedom Summer brings to life that there was such a time and there were such people and, if such a people were once, then they are still among us. Yet, they may only become aware of themselves when they are confronted with visible evidence, such as the evidence contained in the pictures of Herbert Randall.
 
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Faulkner, Mississippi
Edouard Glissant
University of Chicago Press, 2000
In 1989, the Caribbean writer Edouard Glissant visited Rowan Oak, William Faulkner's home in Oxford, Mississippi. His visit spurred him to write a revelatory book about the work of one of our greatest but still least-understood American writers.

"A fascinating way to read Faulkner. . . .[Glissant's] case is nothing less than that, no matter how Faulkner's personal Furies twisted his public speech, Faulkner was a great, world-beating multiculturalist."—Jonathan Levi, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"A sharp, challenging, and wholly unique tour of Yoknapatawpha County." —Kirkus Reviews

"Passionate. . . . Glissant's prose sometimes vies with Faulkner's for intricacy and evocative nuance." —Scott McLemee, Newsday

"Glissant tries to engage Faulkner on many fronts simultaneously, positioning himself as a critic, a fellow artist and as a descendant of slaves. . . He makes a convincing case that Faulkner is not just another 'dead white male author.'"—Scott Yarbrough, Raleigh News & Observer

"[An] ambitious and, at times, rambunctious expedition into Yoknapatawpha County." —Christine Schwartz Hartley, New York Times Book Review
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For Freedom's Sake
The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer
Chana Kai Lee
University of Illinois Press, 1999

The youngest of twenty children of sharecroppers in rural Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer witnessed throughout her childhood the white cruelty, political exclusion, and relentless economic exploitation that defined African American existence in the Delta. 

In this intimate biography, Chana Kai Lee documents Hamer's lifelong crusade to empower the poor through collective action, her rise to national prominence as a civil rights activist, and the personal costs of her ongoing struggle to win a political voice and economic self-sufficiency for blacks in the segregated South. Lee looks at Hamer's early work as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi, her dramatic appearance at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, and her ongoing work as a militant grassroots leader in her own community.

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Freedom Is a Constant Struggle
The Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and Its Legacy
Kenneth T. Andrews
University of Chicago Press, 2004
No part of the United States was more resistant to the civil rights movement and its pursuit of racial equality than Mississippi. Freedom Is a Constant Struggle explores the civil rights movement in that state to consider its emergence before the 1965 Voting Rights Act and its impact long after. Did the civil rights movement have a lasting impact, and, if so, how did it bring about change? Kenneth T. Andrews is the first scholar to examine not only the history of the movement but its social and political legacy as well. His study demonstrates how during the 1970s and '80s, local movements worked to shape electoral politics, increase access to better public schools, and secure the administration of social welfare to needy African Americans.

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle is also the first book of its kind to detail the activities of white supremacists in Mississippi, revealing how white repression and intimidation sparked black activism and simultaneously undermined the movement's ability to achieve far-reaching goals. Andrews shows that the federal government's role was important but reactive as federal actors responded to the sustained struggles between local movements and their opponents. He tracks the mobilization of black activists by the NAACP, the creation of Freedom Summer, efforts to galvanize black voters, the momentous desegregation of public schools and the rise of all-white private academies, and struggles over the economic development of black communities. From this complex history, Andrews shows how the civil rights movement built innovative organizations and campaigns that empowered local leadership and had a lasting legacy in Mississippi and beyond.

Based on an original and creative research design that combines extensive archival research, interviews with activists, and quantitative historical data, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle provides many new insights into the civil rights struggle, and it presents a much broader theory to explain whether and how movements have enduring impacts on politics and society. What results is a work that will be invaluable to students of social movements, democratic politics, and the struggle for racial freedom in the U.S.
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Hattiesburg
An American City in Black and White
William Sturkey
Harvard University Press, 2019

Winner of the Zócalo Public Square Book Prize
Benjamin L. Hooks Award Finalist


“An insightful, powerful, and moving book.”
—Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice

“Sturkey’s clear-eyed and meticulous book pulls off a delicate balancing act. While depicting the terrors of Jim Crow, he also shows how Hattiesburg’s black residents, forced to forge their own communal institutions, laid the organizational groundwork for the civil rights movement.”
New York Times

If you really want to understand Jim Crow—what it was and how African Americans rose up to defeat it—you should start by visiting Mobile Street in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the heart of the historic black downtown. There you can still see remnants of the shops and churches where, amid the violence and humiliation of segregation, men and women gathered to build a remarkable community. Hattiesburg takes us into the heart of this divided town and deep into the lives of families on both sides of the racial divide to show how the fabric of their existence was shaped by the changing fortunes of the Jim Crow South.

“Sturkey’s magnificent portrait reminds us that Mississippi is no anachronism. It is the dark heart of American modernity.”
—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk

“When they are at their best, historians craft powerful, compelling, often genre-changing pieces of history…William Sturkey is one of those historians…A brilliant, poignant work.”
—Charles W. McKinney, Jr., Journal of African American History

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Helen Halsey, or The Swamp State of Conelachita
A Tale of the Borders
William Gilmore Simms
University of Arkansas Press, 1998
In this novelette, William Gilmore Simms records one of the awful realities of America's early frontier, that of women trapped in ill-fated marriages. Forced into a union with her lover, Helen Halsey is exploited and victimized in a domestic situation from which there is no release.Utilizing the compression of the short novel form, Simms weaves elaborate plot lines of violence, romance, and intrigue to create a fast-moving, action-packed tale of an America just beginning its search for identity, justice, and spiritual truth. Edgar Allan Poe said of Simms that "in invention, in vigor, in movement, in the power of exciting interest, and in the artistical arrangement of his themes," he surpassed "any of his countrymen."
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Hogs, Mules, and Yellow Dogs
Growing Up on a Mississippi Subsistence Farm
Jimmye Hillman; Foreword by Robert Hass
University of Arizona Press, 2012

"It's in the nature of things that whole worlds disappear," writes the poet Robert Hass in the foreword to Jimmye Hillman's insightful memoir. "Their vanishings, more often than not, go unrecorded or pass into myth, just as they slip from the memory of the living."

To ensure that the world of Jimmye Hillman's childhood in Greene County, Mississippi during the Great Depression doesn't slip away, he has gathered together accounts of his family and the other people of Old Washington village. There are humorous stories of hog hunting and heart-wrenching tales of poverty set against a rural backdrop shaded by the local social, religious, and political climate of the time. Jimmye and his family were subsistence farmers out of bare-bones necessity, decades before discussions about sustainability made such practices laudable.

More than just childhood memories and a family saga, though, this book serves as a snapshot of the natural, historical, and linguistic details of the time and place. It is a remarkable record of Southern life. Observations loaded with detail uncover broader themes of work, family loyalty, and the politics of changing times. 

Hillman, now eighty-eight, went on to a distinguished career as an economist specializing in agriculture. He realizes the importance of his story as an example of the cultural history of the Deep South but allows readers to discover the significance on their own by witnessing the lives of a colorful cast of characters. Hogs, Mules, and Yellow Dogs is unique, a blend of humor and reflection, wisdom and sympathy—but it's also a hard-nosed look at the realities of living on a dirt farm in a vanished world.
 


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Kaleidoscope
Redrawing an American Family Tree
Margaret Jones Bolsterli
University of Arkansas Press, 2015
In 2005 Margaret Jones Bolsterli learned that her great-great-grandfather was a free mulatto named Jordan Chavis, who owned an antebellum plantation near Vicksburg, Mississippi. The news was a shock; Bolsterli had heard about the plantation in family stories told during her Arkansas Delta childhood, but Chavis’s name and race had never been mentioned. With further exploration Bolsterli found that when Chavis’s children crossed the Mississippi River between 1859 and 1875 for exile in Arkansas, they passed into the white world, leaving the family’s racial history completely behind.

Kaleidoscope is the story of this discovery, and it is the story, too, of the rise and fall of the Chavis fortunes in Mississippi, from the family’s first appearance on a frontier farm in 1829 to ownership of over a thousand acres and the slaves to work them by 1860. Bolsterli learns that in the 1850s, when all free colored people were ordered to leave Mississippi or be enslaved, Jordan Chavis’s white neighbors successfully petitioned the legislature to allow him to remain, unmolested, even as three of his sons and a daughter moved to Arkansas and Illinois. She learns about the agility with which the old man balanced on a tightrope over chaos to survive the war and then take advantage of the opportunities of newly awarded citizenship during Reconstruction. The story ends with the family’s loss of everything in the 1870s, after one of the exiled sons returns to Mississippi to serve in the Reconstruction legislature and a grandson attempts unsuccessfully to retain possession of the land. In Kaleidoscope, long-silenced truths are revealed, inviting questions about how attitudes toward race might have been different in the family and in America if the truth about this situation and thousands of others like it could have been told before.
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King of the Delta Blues
The Life and Music of Charlie Patton
Gayle Dean Wardlow
University of Tennessee Press, 2022

Born 130 years ago in the heart of Mississippi, Charlie Patton (c. 1891–1934) is considered by many to be a father of the Delta blues. With his bullish baritone voice and his fluid slide guitar touch, Patton established songs like “Pony Blues,” “A Spoonful Blues,” and “High Water Everywhere” in the blues lexicon and, through his imitators, in American music. But over the decades, his contributions to blues music have been overshadowed in popularity by those of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and other mid-century bluesmen and women who’ve experienced a resurgence in their music. King of the Delta Blues Singers, originally published in 1988, began a small renaissance in blues and Patton research and set a new scholarly precedent touching even the spelling his name—which, to Patton himself, was "Charlie," not the "Charley" of the early records. And now, with the wide availability of Patton’s complete discography in multiple formats, this revised second edition brings the legend of Charlie Patton into a clarity of detail that was previously impossible.

Gayle Dean Wardlow and the late Stephen Calt (1946–2010) originally probed Patton’s career in the Mississippi Delta, his early performances and recordings, and his musical legacy that continues to influence today’s guitarists and performers, including such musicians as Jack White and Larkin Poe. For this second edition, Wardlow and Edward Komara refined the text and rewrote major sections, updating them with new scholarship on Patton and Delta blues. And finally, Komara has added a new afterword bringing Patton into the contemporary blues conversation and introducing numerous musical examples for the modern researcher and musician.

The second edition of King of the Delta Blues Singers will further cement Patton’s legacy among important blues musicians, and it will be of interest to anyone absorbed in the beginnings of the Delta blues and music biographies.

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A Life Teaching Languages
A Memoir from Mississippi to the Bronx
Linda Watkins-Goffman
University of Michigan Press, 2015
Everyone faces crossroads. While not everyone meets at the same crossroads, we all juggle multiple identities. It is these roles--sometimes conflicting and other times fitting together seamlessly--that Linda Watkins-Goffman explores in A Life Teaching Languages: A Memoir from Mississippi to the Bronx.   
 
In this memoir of an educator, Watkins-Goffman offers insights she has gained from her years of traveling, teaching, and writing and shares how her experiences have shaped her teaching philosophy. According to Watkins-Goffman, teachers must communicate authentically to teach effectively and, to accomplish this, they must connect their own experiences in some way with those of their students. The stories she tells are sure to resonate with pre-service and practicing teachers alike. Her reflections about her own experiences will be useful to readers who plan to become ESL educators, or those who simply seek inspiration about teaching.
 

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Lincoln Looks West
From the Mississippi to the Pacific
Edited by Richard W. Etulain
Southern Illinois University Press, 2010

This volume explores Abraham Lincoln’s ties to the American West, bringing together a variety of scholars and experts who offer a look at the sixteenth president’s legacy in the territory beyond the Mississippi River. Included in this collection are an examination of Lincoln’s opposition to the Mexican War; a discussion of antislavery politics as applied to the West; perspectives on Lincoln’s views on the Thirteenth Amendment and his reluctance to admit Nevada to the Union; a look at the impact of the Radical Republicans on Lincoln’s patronage and appointments; and discussion of Lincoln’s favorable treatment of New Mexico and Arizona in an effort to garner their loyalty to the Union. Also analyzed is “The Tribe of Abraham”—Lincoln’s less-than-competent appointments in Washington Territory—and the ways in which Lincoln’s political friends in the Western Territories influenced his western policies. Other essays look at Lincoln’s dealings with the Mormons of Utah, who supported the president in exchange for his tolerance, and Native Americans, whose relations with the government suffered as the president’s attention was consumed by the Civil War. Loaded with a wealth of information, Lincoln Looks West explores yet another dimension to this dynamic leader and to the history of the American West.

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Living with the Alabama/Mississippi Shore
Wayne F. Canis, William F. Neal, Orrin H. Pilkey Jr. and Orrin H. Pilkey Sr.
Duke University Press, 1985
The Alabama-Mississippi shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico boasts some of the world's most beautiful beaches and balmiest climes. Ever-increasing numbers of retirees, recreation lovers, and industries with work forces are being attracted to the "Sun Belt." On a soft April day the Gulf's waters look as peaceful as a pond.

Yet this same serene shoreline has been ravaged by seven major hurricanes during this century. Several years more than one fearful storm has come hurtling in during a single "season." Loss of life an property damage have been devastating. And newcomers seem almost unaware of the potential dangers.

The authors of this book offer a vivid, historical overview for understanding the environment of the Alabama-Mississippi shore. They describe the risks faced by new residents, and they point the way toward safe and sane coastal development.

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Local People
The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi
John Dittmer
University of Illinois Press, 1994
Winner of the Bancroft Prize, the Lillian Smith Book Award, the Mississippi Historical Society McLemore Prize, the Herbert G. Gutman Prize and the Gustavus Myers Center for Study of Human Rights Outstanding Book Prize.

Publication of this book was supported by a grant from DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana.
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Man on a Mission
James Meredith and the Battle of Ole Miss
Aram Goudsouzian
University of Arkansas Press, 2022

In 1962, James Meredith famously desegregated the University of Mississippi (a.k.a. Ole Miss). As the first Black American admitted to the school, he demonstrated great courage amidst the subsequent political clashes and tragic violence. After President Kennedy summoned federal troops to help maintain order, the South—and America at large—would never be the same.

Man on a Mission depicts Meredith’s relentless pursuit of justice, beginning with his childhood in rural Mississippi and culminating with the confrontation at Ole Miss. A blend of historical research and creative inspiration, this graphic history tells Meredith’s dramatic story in his own singular voice.

From the dawn of the modern civil rights movement, Meredith has offered a unique perspective on democracy, racial equality, and the meaning of America. Man on a Mission presents his captivating saga for a new generation in the era of Black Lives Matter.

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Measuring the Flow of Time
The Works of James A. Ford, 1935-1941
James A. Ford, edited by R. Lee Lyman and Michael J. O'Brien
University of Alabama Press, 1999

A Dan Josselyn Memorial Publication


This collection of Ford's works focuses on the development of ceramic chronology—a key tool in Americanist archaeology.

 

When James Ford began archaeological fieldwork in 1927, scholars divided time simply into prehistory and history. Though certainly influenced by his colleagues, Ford devoted his life to establishing a chronology for prehistory based on ceramic types, and today he deserves credit for bringing chronological order to the vast archaeological record of the Mississippi Valley.


 

This book collects Ford's seminal writings showing the importance of pottery styles in dating sites, population movements, and cultures. These works defined the development of ceramic chronology that culminated in the major volume Archaeological Survey in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, 1940-1947, which Ford wrote with Philip Phillips and James B. Griffin. In addition to Ford's early writings, the collection includes articles written with Griffin and Gordon Willey, as well as other key papers by Henry Collins and Fred Kniffen.


 

Editors Michael O'Brien and Lee Lyman have written an introduction that sets the stage for each chapter and provides a cohesive framework from which to examine Ford's ideas. A foreword by Willey, himself a participant in this chronology development, looks back on the origin of that method. Measuring the Flow of Time traces the development of culture history in American archaeology by providing a single reference for all of Ford's writing on chronology. It chronicles the formation of one of the most important tools for understanding the prehistory of North America and shows its lasting relevance.


 

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Medgar Evers
Mississippi Martyr
Michael Vinson Williams
University of Arkansas Press, 2011
Civil rights activist Medgar Wiley Evers was well aware of the dangers he would face when he challenged the status quo in Mississippi in the 1950s and '60s, a place and time known for the brutal murders of Emmett Till, Reverend George Lee, Lamar Smith, and others. Nonetheless, Evers consistently investigated the rapes, murders, beatings, and lynchings of black Mississippians and reported the horrid incidents to a national audience, all the while organizing economic boycotts, sit-ins, and street protests in Jackson as the NAACP's first full-time Mississippi field secretary. He organized and participated in voting drives and nonviolent direct-action protests, joined lawsuits to overturn state-supported school segregation, and devoted himself to a career path that eventually cost him his life. This biography of an important civil rights leader draws on personal interviews from Myrlie Evers-Williams (Evers's widow), his two remaining siblings, friends, grade-school-to-college schoolmates, and fellow activists to elucidate Evers as an individual, leader, husband, brother, and father. Extensive archival work in the Evers Papers, the NAACP Papers, oral history collections, FBI files, Citizen Council collections, and the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission Papers, to list a few, provides a detailed account of Evers's NAACP work and a clearer understanding of the racist environment that ultimately led to his murder.
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Men Like That
A Southern Queer History
John Howard
University of Chicago Press, 1999
We don't usually associate thriving queer culture with rural America, but John Howard's unparalleled history of queer life in the South persuasively debunks the myth that same-sex desires can't find expression outside the big city. In fact, this book shows that the nominally conservative institutions of small-town life—home, church, school, and workplace—were the very sites where queer sexuality flourished. As Howard recounts the life stories of the ordinary and the famous, often in their own words, he also locates the material traces of queer sexuality in the landscape: from the farmhouse to the church social, from sports facilities to roadside rest areas.

Spanning four decades, Men Like That complicates traditional notions of a post-WWII conformist wave in America. Howard argues that the 1950s, for example, were a period of vibrant queer networking in Mississippi, while during the so-called "free love" 1960s homosexuals faced aggressive oppression. When queer sex was linked to racial agitation and when key civil rights leaders were implicated in homosexual acts, authorities cracked down and literally ran the accused out of town.

In addition to firsthand accounts, Men Like That finds representations of homosexuality in regional pulp fiction and artwork, as well as in the number one pop song about a suicidal youth who jumps off the Tallahatchie Bridge. And Howard offers frank, unprecedented assessments of outrageous public scandals: a conservative U.S. congressman caught in the act in Washington, and a white candidate for governor accused of patronizing black transgender sex workers.

The first book-length history of the queer South, Men Like That completely reorients our presuppositions about gay identity and about the dynamics of country life.

"Men Like That goes a long way towards redressing the urban bias in American lesbian and gay-history writing. . . . Howard's rigorous scholarship, which is based both on oral history and traditional historical documents . . . is enhanced by a disarmingly personal touch. . . . His insights into queerness and the mentality of the American South should be of great interest both to the professional gay historian and the general reader."—Madeleine Minson, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Howard creates a history remarkable in its complexity yet intimate in its portraiture. At long last an intimate and full vision of queer lives in America that did not unfold in San Francisco's discos."—Kirkus Reviews

"In this groundbreaking and engrossing analysis of gay male life in postwar Mississippi, Howard . . . boldly demonstrates that gay culture and sex not only existed but flourished in small towns."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

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Mississippian Polity and Politics on the Gulf Coastal Plain
A View from the Pearl River, Mississippi
Patrick Livingood
University of Alabama Press, 2011

The definition of the regional limits of chiefly influence during the Mississippian period in the southeastern United States remains unresolved. In the Gulf Coastal Plain between the Mississippi and Black Warrior rivers, some studies have explored the role that interpolity interactions played in influencing a polity’s social and political complexity through time. It has been argued that the larger, more complex polities were able to preempt the development of more complex political structures among the smaller polities.

Using research at the Pevey (22Lw510) and Lowe-Steen (22Lw511) mound sites on the Pearl River in Lawrence County, Mississippi, this book explores the social and political mechanisms by which these polities may have interacted with each other and the geographic limit to the effects of inter-polity competition. The Pevey site is a nine-mound Mississippian site and Lowe-Steen is a two-mound site located 18 kilometers to the north of Pevey. These sites provide a “missing link” of sorts to explore questions about inter-polity interactions because of their centrality to the study region and their unusual size. By filling a void in the regional dataset, this study allows us to better understand the capacity of the largest polities to negatively effect the political development of their smaller neighbors.

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Mushrooms of the Gulf Coast States
A Field Guide to Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida
By Alan E. Bessette, Arleen F. Bessette, and David P. Lewis
University of Texas Press, 2019

The weather patterns and topography of America's Gulf Coast create favorable growing conditions for thousands of species of mushrooms, but the complete region has generally gone uncharted when it comes to mycology. Mushrooms of the Gulf Coast States at last delivers an in-depth, high-quality, user-friendly field guide, featuring more than 1,000 common and lesser-known species—some of which are being illustrated in color for the first time.

Using easily identifiable characteristics and a color key, the authors enable anyone, whether amateur mushroom hunter or professional mycologist, to discern and learn about the numerous species of mushrooms encountered in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Wild-food enthusiasts will appreciate the information on edibility or toxicity that accompanies each description, and they will also find the book’s detailed instructions for collecting, cleaning, testing, preserving, and cooking wild mushrooms to be of great interest. Providing encyclopedic knowledge in a handy format that fits in a backpack, Mushrooms of the Gulf Coast States is a must-have for any mushroom lover.

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Natural Aristocracy
History, Ideology, and the Production of William Faulkner
Kevin Railey
University of Alabama Press, 1999
Kevin Railey uses a materialist critical approach--which envisions literature as a discourse necessarily interactive with other forces in the world--to identify and historicize Faulkner’s authorial identity. Working from the assumption that Faulkner was deeply affected by the sociohistorical forces that surrounded his life, Railey explores the interrelationships between American history and Faulkner’s fiction, between southern history and Faulkner’s subjectivity. Railey argues that Faulkner’s obsession with history and his struggle with specific ideologies affecting southern society and his family guided his development as an artist, influencing and overdetermining characterizations and narrative structures as well as the social vision manifest in his work. By seeing Faulkner the artist and Faulkner the man as one and the same, Railey concludes that the celebrated author wrote himself into history in a way that satisfied the image he had of himself as a natural, artistic aristocrat, based on the notion of natural aristocracy.
 
After examining two prevailing and opposing ideologies in the South of Faulkner’s lifetime--paternalism and liberalism--Railey shows how Faulkner’s working-through of his identifications with these forces helped develop his values and perceptions as an artist and individual. Railey reads Faulkner’s fiction as exploring social concerns about the demise of paternalism, questions of leadership within liberalism, and doubts about both an aristocracy of heritage and one of wealth. This reading of The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!, the Snopes trilogy and The Reivers details Faulkner’s explorations of various manifestations of paternalism and liberalism and the intense conflict between them, as well as his attempts to resolve that conflict.
 
Providing new insights into the full range of Faulkner’s fiction, Natural Aristocracy is the first systematic materialist critique of the author and his world.
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A New Day in the Delta
Inventing School Desegregation As You Go
David W. Beckwith
University of Alabama Press, 2008
Explores Mississippi’s school desegregation from the viewpoint of a white teacher
 
A New Day in the Delta is a fresh and appealing memoir of the experience of a young white college graduate in need of a job as the Vietnam War reached its zenith. David Beckwith applied and was accepted for a teaching position in the Mississippi Delta in the summer of 1969. Although it seemed to him a bit strange that he was accepted so quickly for this job while his other applications went nowhere, he was grateful for the opportunity. Beckwith reported for work to learn that he was to be assigned to an all-black school as the first step in Mississippi’s long-deferred school desegregation.
 
The nation and Mississippi alike were being transformed by war and evolving racial relations, and Beckwith found himself on the cutting edge of the transformation of American education and society in one of the most resistant (and poor) corners of the country. Beckwith’s revealing and often amusing story of the year of mutual incomprehension between an inexperienced white teacher and a classroom full of black children who had had minimal contact with any whites. This is history as it was experienced by those who were thrust into another sort of “front line.”
 
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Paths to a Middle Ground
The Diplomacy of Natchez, Boukfouka, Nogales, and San Fernando de las Barrancas, 1791-1795
Charles A. Weeks
University of Alabama Press, 2005
Spanish imperial attempts to form strong Indian alliances to thwart American expansion in the Mississippi Valley.
 
Charles Weeks explores the diplomacy of Spanish colonial officials in New Orleans and Natchez in order to establish posts on the Mississippi River and Tombigbee rivers in the early 1790s. Another purpose of this diplomacy, urged by Indian leaders and embraced by Spanish officials, was the formation of a regional Indian confederation that would deter American expansion into Indian lands.

Weeks shows how diplomatic relations were established and maintained in the Gulf South between Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Cherokee chiefs and their Spanish counterparts aided by traders who had become integrated into Indian societies. He explains that despite the absence of a European state system, Indian groups had diplomatic skills that Europeans could understand: full-scale councils or congresses accompanied by elaborate protocol, interpreters, and eloquent metaphorical language.

Paths to a Middle Ground
is both a narrative and primary documents. Key documents from Spanish archival sources serve as a basis for the examination of the political culture and imperial rivalry playing out in North America in the waning years of the 18th century.
 
 
 
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Plague Among the Magnolias
The 1878 Yellow Fever Epidemic in Mississippi
Deanne Stephens Nuwer
University of Alabama Press, 2009
Deanne Stephens Nuwer explores the social, political, racial, and economic consequences of the 1878 yellow fever epidemic in Mississippi. A mild winter, a long spring, and a torrid summer produced conditions favoring the Aedes aegypti and spread of fever. In late July New Orleans newspapers reported the epidemic and upriver officials established checkpoints, but efforts at quarantine came too late. Yellow fever was developing by late July, and in August deaths were reported. With a fresh memory of an 1873 epidemic, thousands fled, some carrying the disease with them. The fever raged until mid-October, killing many: in Mississippi 28 percent of yellow fever victims died. Thought to be immune to the disease, blacks also contracted the fever in large numbers, although only 7 percent died. There is no consensus explaining the disparity, although it is possible that exposure to yellow fever in Africa provided blacks with inherited resistance.
 
Those fleeing the plague encountered quarantines throughout the South. Some were successful in keeping the disease from spreading, but most efforts failed. These hit hardest were towns along the railroads leading from the river, many of which experienced staggering losses.
 
Yellow fever’s impact, however, was not all negative. Many communities began sanitation reforms, and yellow fever did not again strike in epidemic proportions. Sewer systems and better water supply did wonders for public health in preventing cholera, dysentery, and other water-borne diseases. Mississippi also undertook an infrastructure leading to acceptance of national health care efforts: not an easy step for a militantly states' rights and racially reactionary society.
 
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Plaquemine Archaeology
Edited by Mark A. Rees and Patrick Livingood, with a preface by Stephen Williams
University of Alabama Press, 2006

First major work to deal solely with the Plaquemine societies.

Plaquemine, Louisiana, about 10 miles south of Baton Rouge on the banks of the Mississippi River, seems an unassuming southern community for which to designate an entire culture. Archaeological research conducted in the region between 1938 and 1941, however, revealed distinctive cultural materials that provided the basis for distinguishing a unique cultural manifestation in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Plaquemine was first cited in the archaeological literature by James Ford and Gordon Willey in their 1941 synthesis of eastern U.S. prehistory.

Lower Valley researchers have subsequently grappled with where to place this culture in the local chronology based on its ceramics, earthen mounds, and habitations. Plaquemine cultural materials share some characteristics with other local cultures but differ significantly from Coles Creek and Mississippian
cultures of the Southeast. Plaquemine has consequently received the dubious distinction of being defined by the characteristics it lacks, rather than by those it possesses.

The current volume brings together eleven leading scholars devoted to shedding new light on Plaquemine and providing a clearer understanding of its relationship to other Native American cultures. The authors provide a thorough yet focused review of previous research, recent revelations, and directions for future research. They present pertinent new data on cultural variability and connections in the Lower Mississippi Valley and interpret the implications for similar cultures and cultural relationships. This volume finally places Plaquemine on the map, incontrovertibly demonstrating the accomplishments and importance of Plaquemine peoples in the long history of native North America.

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Poor Whites of the Antebellum South
Tenants and Laborers in Central North Carolina and Northeast Mississippi
Charles C. Bolton
Duke University Press, 1994
In Poor Whites of the Antebellum South, Charles C. Bolton gives a distinct voice to one of the most elusive groups in the society of the Old South. Bolton's detailed examination reveals much about the lives of these landless white tenants and laborers and their relationship to yeoman farmers, black slaves, free blacks and elite whites. Providing a provocative analysis of the failure of the Jeffersonian "yeoman ideal" of democracy in white-majority areas, this book also shows how poor whites represented a more significant presence on the political, economic, and social landscape than previously had been thought.
Looking at two specific regions--the "settled" central piedmont of North Carolina and the "frontier" of northeast Mississippi--Bolton describes how poor whites played an important, though circumscribed, role in the local economy. Dependent on temporary employment, they represented a troubling presence in a society based on the principles of white independence and black slavery. Although perceived by southern leaders as a threat, poor whites, Bolton argues, did not form a political alliance with either free or enslaved blacks because of numerous factors including white racism, kinship ties, religion, education, and mobility. A concluding discussion of the crisis of 1860-61 examines the rejection of secession by significant numbers of poor whites, as well as the implications for their future as the Old South turned toward the new.
Poor Whites of the Antebellum South sheds light on a group often neglected in southern history. It is an important contribution that will be of interest to all students and historians of the American South.
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Pushmataha
A Choctaw Leader and His People
Gideon Lincecum, with an introdution by Greg O'Brien
University of Alabama Press, 2004

Comprises two valuable, original, and difficult-to-find pieces on Choctaw history and culture that originally appeared in the 1904 and 1906 volumes of Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society

This important book comprises two articles that appeared in the 1904 and 1906 volumes of Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society. In “Life of Apushimataha,” Gideon Lincecum tells the story of Choctaw chief Pushmataha, who was born in Mississippi in 1764. A fearless warrior, his name literally means “one whose tomahawk is fatal in war or hunting.” As a charismatic leader, his foresight in making an alliance with General Andrew Jackson brought the Choctaws into war with the Creek Nation and into the War of 1812 but served to their benefit for many years with the United States government. In 1824, Pushmataha traveled to Washington, DC, to negotiate the Treaty of Doak’s Stand as pressure grew for Choctaw removal to Oklahoma Territory, but he fell ill and died there. He was buried with full military honors in the Congressional Cemetery at Arlington.
 
In “Choctaw Traditions about Their Settlement in Mississippi and the Origin of Their Mounds,” Lincecum translates a portion of the Skukhaanumpula—the traditional history of the tribe, which was related to him verbally by Chata Immataha, “the oldest man in the world, a man that knew everything.” It explains how and why the sacred Nanih Waya mound was erected and how the Choctaws formed new towns, and it describes the structure of leadership roles in their society.
 

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Reelfoot Lake
Oasis on the Mississippi
Jim W. Johnson
University of Tennessee Press, 2023

Each year nearly a quarter million visitors come to Reelfoot Lake, also known as “The Earthquake Lake,” to enjoy its natural splendor. With its twenty-five thousand acres of shimmering water, haunting cypress swamps, and two-hundred-year-old lily marshes, the lake is rich in natural beauty and natural history. Yet, despite being one of the most unique lakes in the country—this natural body of water formed during the New Madrid earthquakes in the early nineteenth century—it is relatively understudied. Biologist and environmentalist Jim W. Johnson grew up on the lake and experienced its natural and cultural history firsthand. As a wildlife biologist, he spent much of his career managing Reelfoot and its surrounding area. Reelfoot Lake: Oasis on the Mississippi is part personal remembrance, part guidebook, and part cautionary tale on river and wetland ecology, conservation, and land management, written by an author intimately knowledgeable about the lake and life on it. By exploring Reelfoot’s ancient and recent history, Johnson illuminates the lives of generations of people who lived and thrived in the floodplain. For those looking to navigate the waters of the lake, this book will make travel through the bayous and canals much easier and more pleasurable. And its discussions about the lake’s ecology will bolster voices calling for the protection and preservation of Reelfoot and other wetlands like it.

Accompanied by stunning photography, Johnson’s book is sure to become a useful outdoor guide to Reelfoot Lake and will increase readers’ appreciation for wetlands.

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Remembering Emmett Till
Dave Tell
University of Chicago Press, 2019
Take a drive through the Mississippi Delta today and you’ll find a landscape dotted with memorials to major figures and events from the civil rights movement. Perhaps the most chilling are those devoted to the murder of Emmett Till, a tragedy of hate and injustice that became a beacon in the fight for racial equality. The ways this event is remembered have been fraught from the beginning, revealing currents of controversy, patronage, and racism lurking just behind the placid facades of historical markers.

In Remembering Emmett Till, Dave Tell gives us five accounts of the commemoration of this infamous crime. In a development no one could have foreseen, Till’s murder—one of the darkest moments in the region’s history—has become an economic driver for the Delta. Historical tourism has transformed seemingly innocuous places like bridges, boat landings, gas stations, and riverbeds into sites of racial politics, reminders of the still-unsettled question of how best to remember the victim of this heinous crime. Tell builds an insightful and persuasive case for how these memorials have altered the Delta’s physical and cultural landscape, drawing potent connections between the dawn of the civil rights era and our own moment of renewed fire for racial justice.
 
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Risking Everything
A Freedom Summer Reader
Michael Edmonds
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2014

Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader documents the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, when SNCC and CORE workers and volunteers arrived in the Deep South to register voters and teach non-violence, and more than 60,000 black Mississippians risked everything to overturn a system that had brutally exploited them.

In the 44 original documents in this anthology, you’ll read their letters, eavesdrop on their meetings, shudder at their suffering, and admire their courage. You’ll witness the final hours of three workers murdered on the project’s first day, hear testimony by black residents who bravely stood up to police torture and Klan firebombs, and watch the liberal establishment betray them. 

These vivid primary sources, collected by the Wisconsin Historical Society, provide both first-hand accounts of this astounding grassroots struggle as well as a broader understanding of the Civil Rights movement.


The selected documents are among the 25,000 pages about the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project in the archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society. The manuscripts were collected in the mid-1960s, at a time when few other institutions were interested in saving the stories of common people in McComb or Ruleville, Mississippi. Most have never been published before.

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River Fever
Adventures on the Mississippi, 1969-1972
Will Bagley
Signature Books, 2019

Beginning in the spring of 1969, Huckleberry Finn inspired a question: Could you build a raft, float down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, and on the way learn something about America and its peoples? Will Bagley, a vagrant longhair and future prize-winning western historian, and his friends could, and did. Now, a half century after the adventure, Bagley tells his story.

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The Roads of My Relations
Devon A. Mihesuah
University of Arizona Press, 2001

"I've traveled a lot of roads, but never alone. My relations are with me," says Billie McKenney, one of the matriarchs of the complex family of Choctaws searching for peace as the white world rapidly encroaches on their tribal land, politics, and values. In her first collection of stories, Native American writer Devon A. Mihesuah chronicles the lives of several generations of a close-knit Choctaw family as they are forced from their traditional homeland in nineteenth-century Mississippi and endure unspeakable sorrows during their journey before settling in southeastern Oklahoma.

Blending family lore, stark realism, and vivid imagination, The Roads of My Relations relays a strong sense of Choctaw culture and world view in absorbing tales of history and legend. Unfolding through the voices and actions of family members, confused half-bloods, and unlikely heroes—not all of them living or even human—the stories tell of the horrors of forced removal, the turbulence of post Civil War Indian Territory, the terrifying violence suffered at the hands of immortal Crow witches, and the family's ultimate survival against forces of evil. Time-traveling ghosts, mysterious medicine men, and eerie shape-shifters share the pages with proud matriarchs, mischievous schoolgirls, and loving siblings.

Together, these interwoven stories express the strength and persistence of a tribe whose identity and pride have survived the disruptions of colonialism. With The Roads of My Relations, Devon A. Mihesuah has created a universal and timeless exploration of heritage, spirituality, and the importance of preserving and passing on tradition.


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Robert Johnson
Lost and Found
Barry Lee Pearson and Bill McCulloch
University of Illinois Press, 2002

Even with just forty-one recordings to his credit, Robert Johnson (1911-38) is a towering figure in the history of the blues. His vast influence on twentieth-century American music, combined with his mysterious death at the age of twenty-seven, still encourage the speculation and myth that have long obscured the facts about his life. The most famous legend depicts a young Johnson meeting the Devil at a dusty Mississippi crossroads at midnight and selling his soul in exchange for prodigious guitar skills. 

Barry Lee Pearson and Bill McCulloch examine the full range of writings about Johnson and weigh the conflicting accounts of Johnson's life story against interviews with blues musicians and others who knew the man. Their extensive research uncovers a life every bit as compelling as the fabrications and exaggerations that have sprung up around it. In examining the bluesman's life and music, and the ways in which both have been reinvented and interpreted by other artists, critics, and fans, Robert Johnson: Lost and Found charts the cultural forces that have mediated the expression of African American artistic traditions.

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Roots of Disorder
Race and Criminal Justice in the American South, 1817-80
Christopher Waldrep
University of Illinois Press, 1998
Every white southerner understoodwhat keeping African Americans "down" meant and what it did not mean. It did not mean going to court; it did not mean relying on the law. It meant vigilante violence and lynching. Looking at Vicksburg, Mississippi,Roots of Disorder traces the origins of these terrible attitudes to the day-to-day operations of local courts. In Vicksburg, white exploitation of black labor through slavery evolved into efforts to use the law todefine blacks' place in society, setting the stage for widespread tolerance of brutal vigilantism. Fed by racism and economics, whites' violence grew in a hothouse of more general hostility toward law and courts. Roots of Disorder shows how the criminal justice system itself plays a role in shaping the attitudes that encourage vigilantism.

"Delivers what no other study has yet attempted. . . . Waldrep's book is one of the first systematically to use local trial data to explore questions of society and culture." -- Vernon Burton, author of "A Gentleman and an Officer": A Social and Military History of James B. Griffin's Civil War
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Sherman's Mississippi Campaign
Buck T. Foster
University of Alabama Press, 2006
The rehearsal for the March to the Sea
 
With the fall of Vicksburg to Union forces in mid-1863, the Federals began work to extend and consolidate their hold on the lower Mississippi Valley. As a part of this plan, Major General William Tecumseh Sherman set out from Vicksburg on February 3, 1864, with an army of some 25,000 infantry and a battalion of cavalry. They expected to be joined by another Union force moving south from Memphis and supported themselves off the land as they traveled due east across Mississippi.
 
Sherman entered Meridian on February 14 and thoroughly destroyed its railroad facilities, munitions plants, and cotton stores, before returning to Vicksburg. Though not a particularly effective campaign in terms of enemy soldiers captured or killed, it offers a rich opportunity to observe how this large-scale raid presaged Sherman’s Atlanta and Carolina campaigns, revealing the transformation of Sherman’s strategic thinking.
 
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Simple Story Of A Soldier
Life And Service in the 2d Mississippi Infantry
Samuel W. Hankins
University of Alabama Press, 2004
The camp, battle, and prison experiences of a common soldier

This fast-paced memoir was written in 1905 by 61-year-old Samuel W. Hankins while he was living in the Soldiers Home in Gulfport, Mississippi. It vividly details his years as a Confederate rifleman from the spring of 1861, when at a mere sixteen years of age he volunteered for the 2d Mississippi Infantry, through the end of the war in 1865, when he was just twenty years old and maimed for life.
 
The 2d Mississippi was part of the Army of Northern Virginia and as such saw action at Bull Run/Manassas, Seven Pines and the Peninsular Campaign, and Gettysburg. Besides being hospitalized with measles, suffering severely frostbitten feet, and being wounded by a minié ball at Railroad Cut, Hankins was captured by Federal forces and sent to a prisoner of war camp on David’s Island, New York. Later, he was transferred to a South Carolina hospital, returned home on furlough, joined a cavalry unit that fought at Atlanta. He was stationed in Selma, Alabama, when the war ended.
 
The strength of Hankins’s text lies in his straightforward narrative style virtually free of Lost Cause sentiment. Both Union and Confederate veterans could relate to his stories because so many of them had faced similar challenges during the war. Full of valuable information on a common soldier’s experience, the memoir still conjures the sights, sounds, and smells of warfare.
 
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Southern Footprints
Exploring Gulf Coast Archaeology
Gregory A. Waselkov and Philip J. Carr
University of Alabama Press, 2024
Celebrates more than fifty years of archaeological research from the University of South Alabama
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The Spider in the Cup
Yoknapatawpha County’s Fall into the Unknowable
Barbara H. Fried
Harvard University Press, 1978
Barbara Fried presents here a refined feminist reading of the sharply divergent attitudes toward knowledge attributed to men and women in Faulkner’s fiction. Against a backdrop of the first Fall, the author traces the process by which Faulkner’s men embrace a state of non-being and his women a life of greater knowledge in their twentieth-century fall into the unknowable. Drawing on the main body of Faulkner’s work with close attention to The Sound and the Fury, this richly conceived and gracefully written study animates in a new way the work of one of America’s foremost writers.
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There Is a Tree More Ancient Than Eden
Leon Forrest
University of Chicago Press, 2001
Leon Forrest, acclaimed author of Divine Days, uses a remarkable verbal intensity to evoke human tragedy, injustice, and spirituality in his writing. As Toni Morrison has said, "All of Forrest's novels explore the complex legacy of Afro-Americans. Like an insistent tide this history . . . swells and recalls America's past. . . . Brooding, hilarious, acerbic and profoundly valued life has no more astute observer than Leon Forrest." All of that is on display here in two novels that give readers a breathtaking view of the human experience, filled with humor and pathos.
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Thirteen Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey
Commemorative Edition
Kathryn Tucker Windham
University of Alabama Press, 2015
A deluxe, commemorative edition of famed southern author and folklorist Kathryn Tucker Windham’s introduction to Mississippi’s thirteen most famous haunted houses and ghostly visitations

For as long as Mississippi has existed (and then some), flocks of phantoms have haunted the mortal inhabitants of the Magnolia State. In Thirteen Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey, best-selling folklorist Kathryn Tucker Windham, along with her trusty spectral companion Jeffrey, introduces thirteen of the state’s most famous ghost stories.
 
Although stories about Mississippi’s spirits seemingly outnumber the ghosts themselves, Windham observes that “Southern ghost tales are disappearing because people no longer sit around on the porch on summer nights and tell stories. The old folks who grew up with these stories are dying now, and the stories are dying with them.”
 
Fortunately for us, Windham was a writer dedicated to preserving these tales in print. The veteran author spent many years tracking down these stories and chronicling the best ones. From the ghost of Mrs. McEwen still wearing her beloved cameo pin and keeping a watchful eye over Featherston Place, her home in Holly Springs, where, she swore, she would stay forever, to the ghostly visage fixed permanently on the bedroom window pane of Catherine McGehee, who searched the horizon ardently for her unrequited love to come to her as promised at Cold Spring Plantation in Pinckneyville, Windham’s stories cover the breadth and depth of Mississippi—at times more moonlight than magnolia.
 
An enduring classic, this commemorative edition restores Thirteen Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey to the ghastly grandeur of its original 1974 edition.
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To Retain Command of the Mississippi
The Civil War Naval Campaign for Memphis
Edward B. McCaul Jr.
University of Tennessee Press, 2014
The Mississippi River was a strategic priority for the Union army from the outset of the American Civil War. By controlling the Mississippi, the North’s military forces could effectively split the Confederacy in two and create economic and logistical havoc for Confederate supply lines that relied on river transportation. A number of battles were fought for control of the Mississippi, and ultimately the combination of Union troops supported by Federal gunboats and armored paddle steamers culminated in the surrender of Port Hudson in July 1863 and Union dominance over the Mississippi waterways.
            The Battle of Memphis was one such fray waged for control of the Mississippi. It was a major victory for the Union, one that was over almost before it began because of luck and lessons the Union fleet learned at a hard-fought battle with the Confederate River Defense Fleet at Plum Point. Perhaps owing to its swift conclusion, the Battle of Memphis has not received the scholarly attention of other battles, such as Vicksburg and Forts Henry and Donelson. In To Retain Command of the Mississippi, Edward B. McCaul Jr. argues that the Battle of Memphis was pivotal in the Union’s efforts to control the Mississippi River. The Union command, by narrowly escaping defeat at Plum Point, learned invaluable lessons about the Confederate River Defense Fleet and masterfully enacted those lessons in decisively defeating the Confederate fleet at Memphis. With the Confederacy’s river forces severely crippled after the Battle of Memphis, the Union fleets pushed onward to eventual victory at Vicksburg.
            McCaul brings this pivotal river battle back into the American Civil War discussion by highlighting the Union gains and Confederate losses that led up to the Battle of Memphis and maintaining that had the battle gone differently, Grant’s plans for taking Vicksburg would have been drastically altered
 
Edward B. McCaul Jr. is Assistant Dean for Curriculum and Assessment in the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University. He is the author of The Mechanical Fuze and the Advance of Artillery in the Civil War, and his articles have appeared in Military History, Vietnam, and Aviation History.
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The Tombigbee Watershed in Southeastern Prehistory
Ned J. Jenkins
University of Alabama Press, 1986

Representing the synthesis of approximately ten years of archaeological research along the central Tombigbee River, this book offers new theoretical and interpretive contributions to the study of human activity in the Tombigbee River Valley from 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1450. The authors have devised a new taxonomic approach that allows them to portray cultures as they gathered momentum and peaked in their potential as social, economic, and political structures. The data acquired for this study are from the massive cultural resource management program that accompanied the construction of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

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Towns and Temples Along the Mississippi
Edited by David H. Dye and Cheryl Anne Cox
University of Alabama Press, 1990

A Dan Josselyn Memorial Publication

Specialists from archaeology, ethnohistory, physical anthropology, and cultural anthropology bring their varied points of view to this subject in an attempt to answer basic questions about the nature and extent of social change within the time period. The scholars' overriding concerns include presentation of a scientifically accurate depiction of the native cultures in the Central Mississippi Valley prior and immediately subsequent to European contact and the need to document the ensuing social and biological changes that eventually led to the widespread depopulation and cultural reorientation. Their findings lead to three basic hypotheses that will focus the scholarly research for decades to come.

Contributors include:

George J. Armelagos, Ian W. Brown, Chester B. DePratter, George F. Fielder, Jr., James B. Griffin, M. Cassandra Hill, Michael P. Hoffman, Charles Hudson, R. Barry Lewis, Dan F. Morse, Phyllis A. Morse, Mary Lucas Powell, Cynthia R. Price, James F. Price, Gerald P. Smith, Marvin T. Smith, and Stephen Williams

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Tunica Archaeology
Jeffrey P. Brain
Harvard University Press, 1988
Sequel to Tunica Treasure, this volume presents the results of a decade of research on the Tunica Indians of Mississippi and Louisiana. The author traces the Tunica from the moment of first contact in the sixteenth century to the present day, with special emphasis on the critical eighteenth century. He describes considerable new archaeological data and integrates relevant ethnohistorical details into a reconstruction of the dynamic story of changes in American Indian culture during a historic period.
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Veneer
Stories
Stories by Steve Yarbrough
University of Missouri Press, 1998

Acclaimed short story writer Steve Yarbrough, whose works have been included in the Pushcart Prize anthology and The Best American Mystery Stories 1998, once again demonstrates his gift for vividly rendered characters and evocative themes in his latest collection of fiction.

Veneer presents a variety of characters from cultural backgrounds and settings that range from California to Mississippi to Eastern Europe. Yarbrough's sensitive portrayals of loss and longing are individual and unsettling; a disaffected college football coach, a movie star with a "substance problem," and a small-town girl coming to grips with the murder of her mother are just a few examples of the turbulent lives he portrays. In every instance, each character is "constantly searching for some way to bridge the gap, so small and yet so vast, between a right move and a wrong one."

A poignant theme running through this collection is the conflict between appearance and reality. Yarbrough presents the reader with deep narrative layers, juxtaposing the gritty present with nostalgic recollections of an idealized past or hopeful projections into a rosy future. "Veneer," the title piece, beautifully reveals the depth of this conflict. On the surface, the narrator, a married man whose family is away on vacation, enjoys a dinner with a woman who has been a longtime friend. Beneath that "veneer," however, lies a more complex, perhaps troubling, relationship between the two friends, a relationship only partially obscured by the comic recounting of a childhood Independence Day.

Yarbrough is at his best when he offers us brief glimpses into his characters' minds and imaginations, brilliantly exposing subtle vulnerabilities as cracks in the veneer. "Bohemia" follows the travels of two young lovers as they explore Europe. The woman fears that her lover will abandon her, and when she wakes to find him gone one evening, she believes her fear is confirmed. Yet his return does not alleviate her insecurity. The reality of her lover's presence and her continued anxiety emphasize the many layers that constitute the woman's world.

Diverse in locale, character, and content, the stories in Veneer present rare views into the rifts between husband and wife, parent and child, one sibling and another. Crafting these compelling, deceptively simple stories is a writer whose "true subject is the human heart."

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The Vicksburg Assaults, May 19-22, 1863
Edited by Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear
Southern Illinois University Press, 2019
After a series of victories through Mississippi early in the spring of 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee had reached the critical point in its campaign to capture Vicksburg. Taking the city on the hill would allow the Union to control the Mississippi River and would divide the Confederacy in half. Confederate morale was low, and a Union victory in the war appeared close before the start of Grant’s assault against General John C. Pemberton’s Army of Mississippi.
 
But due to difficult terrain, strong defenses, and uncoordinated movements, the quick triumph Grant desired was unattainable. On the afternoon of May 19, with little rest, preparation, or reconnaissance, Union forces charged the Confederate lines only to be repulsed. A respite between the assaults allowed both sides to reinforce their positions. Early on May 22 the Union artillery sought to soften the stronghold’s defenses before the general attack, but despite the Union forces’ preparation, the fighting proved even more disorganized and vicious. Again Grant failed to move Pemberton. Not wanting to risk more soldiers in a third attack, Grant conceded to the necessity of laying siege. Confederate morale climbed as the Southerners realized they had held their ground against an overwhelming force.
 
Editors Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear have assembled five captivating essays that examine Grant’s unsuccessful assaults against Confederate defensive lines around Vicksburg. Ranging from military to social history, the essays further historical debates on prominent topics, such as the reactions of Midwesterners to the first failures of Grant’s Vicksburg campaign. Two essays from opposing sides analyze the controversial decisions surrounding the Railroad Redoubt, the site of the bloodiest fighting on May 22. Another investigates how the tenacity of Texan reinforcements forced Union soldiers to abandon their gains.
 
Peppered with first-hand observations and bolstered by an impressive depth of research, this anthology is an invitingly written account and comprehensive assessment. By zeroing in on the two assaults, the contributors offer essential clarity and understanding of these important events within the larger scope of the Civil War’s Vicksburg Campaign.
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The Vicksburg Campaign, March 29–May 18, 1863
Edited by Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear
Southern Illinois University Press, 2013

Ulysses S. Grant’s ingenious campaign to capture the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River was one of the most decisive events of the Civil War and one of the most storied military expeditions in American history. The ultimate victory at Vicksburg effectively cut the Confederacy in two, gave control of the river to Union forces, and delivered a devastating blow from which the South never fully recovered. Editors Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear have assembled essays by prominent and emerging scholars, who contribute astute analysis of this famous campaign’s most crucial elements and colorful personalities.

Encompassed in this first of five planned volumes on the Vicksburg campaign are examinations of the pivotal events that comprised the campaign’s maneuver stage, from March to May of 1863. The collection sheds new light on Grant’s formidable intelligence network of former slaves, Mississippi loyalists, and Union spies; his now legendary operations to deceive and confuse his Confederate counterparts; and his maneuvers from the perspective of classic warfare. Also presented are insightful accounts of Grant’s contentious relationship with John A. McClernand during the campaign; interactions between hostile Confederate civilians and Union army troops; and the planning behind such battles as Grierson’s Raid, Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill, and Big Black River Bridge.

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Watching Jim Crow
The Struggles over Mississippi TV, 1955–1969
Steven D. Classen
Duke University Press, 2004
In the early 1960s, whenever the Today Show discussed integration, wlbt-tv, the nbc affiliate in Jackson, Mississippi, cut away to local news after announcing that the Today Show content was “network news . . . represent[ing] the views of the northern press.” This was only one part of a larger effort by wlbt and other local stations to keep African Americans and integrationists off Jackson’s television screens. Watching Jim Crow presents the vivid story of the successful struggles of African Americans to achieve representation in the tv programming of Jackson, a city many considered one of the strongest bastions of Jim Crow segregation. Steven D. Classen provides a detailed social history of media activism and communications policy during the civil rights era. He focuses on the years between 1955—when Medgar Evers and the naacp began urging the two local stations, wlbt and wjtv, to stop censoring African Americans and discussions of integration—and 1969, when the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a landmark decision denying wlbt renewal of its operating license.

During the 1990s, Classen conducted extensive interviews with more than two dozen African Americans living in Jackson, several of whom, decades earlier, had fought to integrate television programming. He draws on these interviews not only to illuminate their perceptions—of the civil rights movement, what they accomplished, and the present as compared with the past—but also to reveal the inadequate representation of their viewpoints in the legal proceedings surrounding wlbt’s licensing. The story told in Watching Jim Crow has significant implications today, not least because the Telecommunications Act of 1996 effectively undid many of the hard-won reforms achieved by activists—including those whose stories Classen relates here.

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We Ain't What We Was
Civil Rights in the New South
Frederick M. Wirt
Duke University Press, 1997
When officials of the U.S. Department of Justice came in 1961 to Panola County in the Mississippi delta, they found a closed society in which race relations had not altered significantly since Reconstruction. Much has changed, however, in Mississippi in the past three decades, as Frederick Wirt demonstrates in "We Ain’t What We Was," a remarkable look inside the New South. In this follow-up to his highly praised 1970 study of Panola County, The Politics of Southern Equality, Wirt shows how the implementation of civil rights law over the past quarter-century has altered racial reality that in turn altered white perceptions, and thus behavior and attitudes in a section of the country where segregation and prejudice had been most thoroughly entrenched.
Wirt uses multiple indicators—interviews with leaders, attitude tests of children, content analysis of newspapers, school records, and voting and job data—to record what has changed in the Deep South as a result of the 60s revolution in civil rights. Although racism continues to exist in Panola, Wirt maintains that the current generation of southerners is sharply distinguished from its predecessors, and he effectively documents the transformations in individuals and institutions. In a time of increasing popular challenges to the use of law in support of civil liberties, or the place of the federal government to effect necessary social change, this book testifies to the great changes, both public and personal, that were brought about by the strong implementation of civil rights law over thirty years ago. "We Ain’t What We Was" shows that adaptation to change was not overnight, not final, but gradual and always persistent.
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What the River Carries
Encounters with the Mississippi, Missouri, and Platte
Lisa Knopp
University of Missouri Press, 2012
In this informed and lyrical collection of interwoven essays, Lisa Knopp explores the physical and cultural geography of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Platte, rivers she has come to understand and cherish. At the same time, she contemplates how people experience landscape, identifying three primary roles of environmental perception: the insider, the outsider, and the outsider seeking to become an insider. Viewing the waterways through these approaches, she searches for knowledge and meaning.

Because Knopp was born and raised just a few blocks away, she considers the Mississippi from the perspective of a native resident, a “dweller in the land.” She revisits places she has long known:  Nauvoo, Illinois, the site of two nineteenth-century utopias, one Mormon, one Icarian; Muscatine, Iowa, once the world’s largest manufacturer of pearl (mussel shell) buttons; and the mysterious prehistoric bird- and bear-shaped effigy mounds of northeastern Iowa. On a downriver trip between the Twin Cities and St. Louis, she meditates on what can be found in Mississippi river water—state lines, dissolved oxygen, smallmouth bass, corpses, family history, wrecked steamboats, mayfly nymphs, toxic perfluorinated chemicals, philosophies.

Knopp first encountered the Missouri as a tourist and became acquainted with it through literary and historical documents, as well as stories told by longtime residents. Her journey includes stops at Fort Bellefontaine, where Lewis and Clark first slept on their sojourn to the Pacific; Little Dixie, Missouri’s slaveholding, hemp-growing region, as revealed through the life of Jesse James’s mother; Fort Randall Dam and Lake Francis Case, the construction of which destroyed White Swan on the Yankton Sioux Reservation; and places that produced unique musical responses to the river, including Native American courting flutes, indie rock, Missouri River valley fiddling, Prohibition-era jazz jam sessions, and German folk music.

Knopp’s relationship with the Platte is marked by intentionality: she settled nearby and chose to develop deep and lasting connections over twenty years’ residence. On this adventure, she ponders the half-million sandhill cranes that pass through Nebraska each spring, the ancient varieties of Pawnee corn growing at the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, a never-broken tract of tallgrass prairie, the sugar beet industry, and the changes in the river brought about by the demands of irrigation.
In the final essay, Knopp undertakes the science of river meanders, consecutive loops of water moving in opposite directions, which form around obstacles but also develop in the absence of them. What initiates the turning that results in a meander remains a mystery. Such is the subtle and interior process of knowing and loving a place. What the River Carries asks readers to consider their own relationships with landscape and how one can most meaningfully and responsibly dwell on the earth’s surface.

Winner of the 2013 Nebraska Book Award for Nonfiction

Honorable Mention for the Association for Literature and the Environment's 2013 Environmental Creative Nonfiction Award
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Working the Mississippi
Two Centuries of Life on the River
Bonnie Stepenoff
University of Missouri Press, 2015

The Mississippi River occupies a sacred place in American culture and mythology. Often called The Father of Rivers, it winds through American life in equal measure as a symbol and as a topographic feature. To the people who know it best, the river is life and a livelihood. River boatmen working the wide Mississippi are never far from land. Even in the dark, they can smell plants and animals and hear people on the banks and wharves.

Bonnie Stepenoff takes readers on a cruise through history, showing how workers from St. Louis to Memphis changed the river and were in turn changed by it. Each chapter of this fast-moving narrative focuses on representative workers: captains and pilots, gamblers and musicians, cooks and craftsmen. Readers will find workers who are themselves part of the country’s mythology from Mark Twain and anti-slavery crusader William Wells Brown to musicians Fate Marable and Louis Armstrong.

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Yazoo
Integration in a Deep-Southern Town
Willie Morris
University of Arkansas Press, 2012
In 1970 Brown v. Board of Education was sixteen years old, and fifteen years had passed since the Brown II mandate that schools integrate "with all deliberate speed." Still, after all this time, it was necessary for the U.S. Supreme Court to order thirty Mississippi school districts--whose speed had been anything but deliberate--to integrate immediately. One of these districts included Yazoo City, the hometown of writer Willie Morris. Installed productively on "safe, sane Manhattan Island," Morris, though compelled to write about this pivotal moment, was reluctant to return to Yazoo and do no less than serve as cultural ambassador between the flawed Mississippi that he loved and a wider world. "I did not want to go back," Morris wrote. "I finally went home because the urge to be there during Yazoo's most critical moment was too elemental to resist, and because I would have been ashamed of myself if I had not." The result, Yazoo, is part reportage, part memoir, part ethnography, part social critique--and one of the richest accounts we have of a community's attempt to come to terms with the realities of seismic social change. As infinitely readable and nuanced as ever, Yazoo is available again, enhanced by an informative foreword by historian Jenifer Jensen Wallach and a warm and personal afterword on Morris's writing life by his widow, JoAnne Prichard Morris.
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