A Little Taste of Freedom: The Black Freedom Struggle in Claiborne County, Mississippi


9780807856383In this long-term community study of the freedom movement in rural, majority-black Claiborne County, Mississippi, Emilye Crosby explores the impact of the African American freedom struggle on small communities in general and questions common assumptions that are based on the national movement. The legal successes at the national level in the mid 1960s did not end the movement, Crosby contends, but rather emboldened people across the South to initiate waves of new actions around local issues.

Escalating assertiveness and demands of African Americans–including the reality of armed self-defense–were critical to ensuring meaningful local change to a remarkably resilient system of white supremacy. In Claiborne County, a highly effective boycott eventually led the Supreme Court to affirm the legality of economic boycotts for political protest. NAACP leader Charles Evers (brother of Medgar) managed to earn seemingly contradictory support from the national NAACP, the segregationist Sovereignty Commission, and white liberals. Studying both black activists and the white opposition, Crosby employs traditional sources and more than 100 oral histories to analyze the political and economic issues in the postmovement period, the impact of the movement and the resilience of white supremacy, and the ways these issues are closely connected to competing histories of the community.

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“A wonderfully evocative work of history that is a welcome–and needed–addition to the literature on the civil rights movement.”
Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

“[A Little Taste of Freedom] makes a significant contribution to civil rights movement scholarship and to the 21st century African American nonfiction canon.”
Dunbar on Black Books

“This is a model study. . . . A riveting read. . . . A compelling reminder that in many local communities across the South, the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965) marked the beginning, not the end, of demonstrations that are most associated with the civil rights movement.”
Journal of Southern History

“Crosby has delivered an intimate, complex portrait of racial struggle in a critical area of the Deep South. [A Little Taste of Freedom] will stand as a model for community-level studies of the civil rights movement for years to come.”
Journal of American History

“This is a marvelous book–a riveting story of black activism in the latter days of the civil rights movement and the most comprehensive account of race relations in a southern community I have come across in years. The chapter on armed self-defense in the black community expands our definition of ‘nonviolence.’ Her documentation of the cozy relationship between the state’s most visible black leader and the segregationist Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission is eye-opening, to say the least. A native of Claiborne County, Emilye Crosby had access to local leaders across the board, black and white. Modestly titled, A Little Taste of Freedom is a big book, a major contribution to the new civil rights historiography.”–John Dittmer, DePauw University

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