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Student Activism and Civil Rights in Mississippi

Protest Politics and the Struggle for Racial Justice, 1960-1965

foreword by Staughton Lynd

336 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 3 maps

ebook available

Southern History | Civil Rights Studies

  Hardcover / 9780807149843 / March 2013

In 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.

James P. Marshall is an independent scholar and former non-resident fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

Staughton Lynd is a former professor of history at Yale University, a civil and labor rights activist and lawyer, and the author of numerous books on race, labor, and radical politics.

Praise for Student Activism and Civil Rights in Mississippi

“The value in this work comes from the exquisite detail with which Marshall stitches together his narrative, from sources he carefully collected during his own activist experience.”—American Historical Review

“Drawing on unmatched access both to participants in and primary documents about the student-led civil rights movement in Mississippi, James P. Marshall has produced an essential resource for students and scholars of this crucial place and time in U.S. history.”—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author of Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513–2008

“James P. Marshall has provided a careful and detailed study of the extraordinary and brave efforts of students supporting civil rights to overcome racial oppression in Mississippi in the early 1960s. Student Activism and Civil Rights in Mississippi is a must-read for anyone interested in protests against racial injustice that ultimately led to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”—William Julius Wilson, author of More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City

“James P. Marshall, scholar and participant, plows new ground in this superbly documented study of students and local people organizing for freedom while Mississippi burned. Building parallel protest parties demonstrating a desire to vote while opposing racism, they ignored personal danger. Marshall makes the case that young people in the 1960s, allied with older courageous stalwarts like Amzie Moore and Fannie Lou Hamer, changed American history.”—Bob Zellner, author of The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement

“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

Links for Student Activism and Civil Rights in Mississippi

An interview with James P. Marshall (Inside Higher Ed)

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