Student Activism and Civil Rights in Mississippi


12134In the 1890s, Mississippi society drew a sharp line between its African American and white communities by creating a repressive racial system that legally segregated black residents and removed their basic citizenship and voting rights. Over many decades, white residents suppressed African Americans who dared defy that system with an array of violence, terror, and murder. In 1960, students supporting civil rights moved into Mississippi and challenged white supremacy by encouraging African Americans to reassert the rights guaranteed them under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The ensuing social upheaval changed the state forever.

In Student Activism and Civil Rights in Mississippi, James P. Marshall, a former civil rights activist, tells the complete story of the quest for racial equality in Mississippi. Using a variety of sources as well as his own memories, Marshall weaves together an astonishing account of student protestors and local activists who risked their lives by fighting against southern resistance and federal inaction. Their efforts, and the horrific violence inflicted on them, helped push many non-southerners and the federal government into action, culminating in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act—measures that destroyed legalized segregation and disfranchisement. Ultimately, Marshall contends, student activism in Mississippi helped forge a consensus by reminding the American public of its forgotten promises and by educating the nation to the fact that African Americans in the South deserved to live as free and equal citizens. [Publisher’s description.]

“Marshall uses a rich collection of primary source material to chronicle in wonderful detail the gradual emergence and tactical evolution of the statewide movement in Mississippi. His untangling and sequencing of events, especially during Freedom Summer, provide the kind of clarity that civil rights scholars have long wished for and others will find refreshingly accessible.”—Hasan Kwame Jeffries, author of Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt 

Credit: By James P. Marshall. Published by Louisiana State University Press, 2013.