An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
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  • Mississippi as Metaphor State, Region, and Nation in Historical Imagination

    Joseph Crespino, Emory University

    23 October 2006

    Mississippi emerged as an iconic space for the struggle over the meaning of democracy and equality in the South and in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. Examining three metaphors widely used in those years, Professor Joseph Crespino argues that, as "the South on steroids," Mississippi became as much a contentious, imagined space as a real location for addressing national problems of white racism. The Mississippi of metaphor continues to affect, and to limit, how the South and the nation pursue social reform and equality.

    Mississippi as Metaphor

    Use the scroller to the right of the playlist to watch all five parts of the talk.


    About Joseph Crespino

    Professor Crespino received his PhD in American History from Stanford University in 2002. His research interests focus on the political culture of twentieth-century America, in particular, the US South. Crespino's first book, In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution (Princeton University Press, 2007), examines segregationist politics in the state generally considered to be the most recalcitrant. He proposes that white Mississippians were key actors in a broad, popular reaction against modern liberalism that reshaped American politics in the closing decades of the twentieth century.

    Video of Professor Crespino was taken at "The End of Southern Exceptionalism" conference held at Emory University in March 2006, an event organized by Prof. Crespino of the Emory University History Department and Professor Matt Lassiter of the Department of History at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

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    Recommended Resources

    Print Materials

    Carter, Dan T. The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000.

    Carter, Dan T. From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich: Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution, 1963-1994. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996.

    Cobb, James C. The Most Southern Place on Earth: The Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

    Cohen, Robert and Reginald E. Zelnik. The Free Speech Movement: Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

    Crespino, Joseph. In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.

    Crespino, Joseph."The Best Defense Is a Good Offense: The Stennis Amendment and the Fracturing of Liberal School Desegregation Policy, 1964–1972." Journal of Policy History 18.3, (2006): 304-325.

    Crosby, Emilye. A Little Taste of Freedom: The Black Freedom Struggle in Claiborne County, Mississippi. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.

    Dittmer, John. Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1994.

    Egerton, John. The Americanization of Dixie: The Southernization of America. New York: Harper's Magazine Press, 1974.

    Moye, Todd. Let the People Decide: Black Freedom and White Resistance Movements in Sunflower County, Mississippi, 1945-1986. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

    Payne, Charles. I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

    Schulman, Bruce. From Cotton Belt to Sunbelt: Federal Policy, Economic Development, and the Transformation of the South, 1938-1980. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

    Shafer, Byron E. and Richard Johnston, The End of Southern Exceptionalism: Class, Race and Partisan Change in the Postwar South. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

    Silver, James W. Mississippi: The Closed Society. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1964.

    Silver, James W. Running Scared: Silver in Mississippi. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 1984.

    Woodward, C. Vann. Origins of the New South, 1877-1913. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1951.


    Brown v. Board of Education Digital Archive, University of Michigan

    Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive

    Fannie Lou Hamer, Testimony Before the Credentials Committee, Democratic National Convention Atlantic City, New Jersey — August 22, 1964

    Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission Files On-line

    Mississippi Civil Rights Documentation Project

    Thomas, William G. “Television News and the Civil Rights Struggle:The Views in Virginia and Mississippi.Southern Spaces, November 3, 2004.

    Wilson, Charles Reagan. “The Mississippi Delta.” Southern Spaces, April 4, 2004.

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