Date of Award

Spring 5-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Committee Chair

Dr. William K. Scarborough

Committee Chair Department

History

Committee Member 2

Dr. Bradley G. Bond

Committee Member 3

Dr. Curtis Austin

Committee Member 3 Department

History

Committee Member 4

Dr. Andrew Wiest

Committee Member 4 Department

History

Committee Member 5

Dr. Louis Kyriakoudes

Committee Member 5 Department

History

Abstract

“Race and Justice in Mississippi’s Central Piney Woods, 1940-2010,” examines the black freedom struggle in Jones and Forrest counties. The writer concludes that more than any other region of Mississippi, the Central Piney Woods became the pivotal theater in the war for racial justice because the intensity of its racial oppression combined with its unparalleled suffrage campaign, and watershed street protests forced a federal alliance, instigated landmark court rulings, and generated black political victories that lay the foundations for a more equitable racial order. To obtain a broader perspective on the forces that transformed racial justice over time, this community study focuses on the nexus at which the civil right struggle, massive resistance, and federal intervention converged; and it expands the typical periodization of civil rights studies to examine the racial struggle from the Jim Crow era, through the Civil Rights Movement, and into the racial landscape of contemporary times.

The first stage of the modern black freedom struggle began in the Central Piney Woods on the eve of World War II as blacks capitalized on the termination of American isolationism to expose racial oppression in the South. Yet the pervasive racial police state prevented the rise of a full-scale revolt until the mid-sixties. In 1964, the black freedom struggle moved into its second stage when civil rights activists launched a decade-long revolt against the racial order that forced the dismantling of the Jim Crow state. Determined to address inequities unresolved by the Civil Rights Movement, the freedom struggle moved into its third stage as local blacks launched a second movement to fight for political clout, economic equity, retributive justice, and the termination of discrimination in the schools, the courts, and city government. Although the struggle transformed the Central Piney Woods into the harbinger of biracial governing, economic, educational, and infrastructure disparities persisted, and the society was still largely segregated. At the least, as blacks had acquired substantial political power and as white progressivism had grown, the Central Piney Woods had an historic opportunity to address these disparities efficaciously and to seek a racially reconciled society.

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