Mississippi: The Closed Society

James W. Silver
Copyright Date: 1966
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Mississippi: The Closed Societyis a book about an insurrection in modern America, more particularly, about the social and historical background of that insurrection. It is written by a Mississippian who is a historian, and who, on September 30, 1962, witnessed the long night of riot that exploded on the campus of the University of Mississippi at Oxford, when students, and, later, adults with no connection with the University, attacked United States marshals sent to the campus to protect James H. Meredith, the first African American to attend Ole Miss.

    In the first part ofMississippi: The Closed Society, Silver describes how the state's commitment to the doctrine of white supremacy led to a situation in which the Mississippian found that continued intransigence (and possibly violence) was the only course offered to him. In these chapters the author speaks in the more formal measures of the historian. In the second part of the book, "Some Letters from the Closed Society," he reproduces (among other correspondence and memoranda) a series of his letters to friends and family--and critics--in the days and weeks after the insurrection. Here he reveals himself more personally and forcefully. In both parts of the book are disclosed the mind and heart of the Mississippian who is as haunted as William Faulkner was by the moral chaos of his native land.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-313-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. A Note from the Author
    (pp. vii-xxii)
    James W. Silver

    • 1. The Establishment of Orthodoxy
      (pp. 3-27)

      The insurrection against the armed forces of the United States at the University of Mississippi on September 30–October 1, 1962, was the inevitable response of the closed society of Mississippi to a law outside itself. It made no difference that the law involved was the superior law of the United States—and that Mississippi was one of those United States. The violent response was inevitable because the United States is slowly, painfully, and self-consciously changing from a white society to a multi-racial society. This is happening not because Christianity has suddenly been overwhelmed with success but because the imperatives...

    • 2. The Voices of Militancy
      (pp. 28-52)

      According to the JacksonDaily News“there is nothing new in the tactics of propagandists smearing the South. This has been a trait for well over a century. The current crop of hate peddlers simply drum up new accusations and the bias has become so stereotyped only the most gullible fall for this oddball thunder.” Honorable people all across the nation are beginning to “see through the trashy social and political gunk,” and, as might be expected, “damned few Mississippians believe anything they see or hear on a national newscast any more.” In theClarion-Ledger, Charles Hills wrote an illuminating...

    • 3. The Voices of Acquiescence
      (pp. 53-82)

      The church in Mississippi played a principal role in the formulation of the orthodox view in the 1850’s, helped stimulate secession, and sustained civilian morale during the life of the Confederacy. In the desegregation emergency after 1954, the course of the clergy has been more difficult to assess, in view of a general call by the Mississippi Diocese of the Episcopal Church for support of the Supreme Court’s decision and eventual integration. In the past year or two, many individual preachers and a few ministerial groups have made courageous stands, but the church as a whole has placed its banner...

    • 4. The Closed Society and the Negro
      (pp. 83-106)

      In the first half of the present century there was no serious challenge to the caste system in Mississippi, even though the Negro spoke the same language and subscribed to the same religion as the white, and accepted, presumably, the same universal American goals. In this period, it is true, the Negro also played a proper part in two world wars and heard, ever so faintly, the siren call of Franklin Roosevelt. The white man responded with a more urgent sense of his need to be constantly alert against any crack in the wall of white supremacy.

      As elsewhere in...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 5. The Great Confrontation and Its Aftermath
      (pp. 107-140)

      The University of Mississippi has had its moments of greatness. Among its faculty and administrators have been men of integrity and virtue, and always at hand has been the familiar fact of genteel poverty. In the presidency of Alfred B. Butts (1935–1946) Ole Miss began a precarious climb from the depths of a depression-caused despair and the shame of the Bilbo spoliation. For at least a decade after World War II, under the leadership of Chancellor John D. Williams, the University seemed on the verge of living up to the dreams and hopes of its founders and directors of...

    • 6. The Voices of Dissent and the Future of the Closed Society
      (pp. 141-156)

      The closed society is never absolutely closed. There always have been and there always will be dissenters, doubters who will point to the road not taken. They are the hope of the present and the future, and even when they are wrong, their presence is required if the social order is to avoid intellectual stagnation and to escape the excessive belligerence of totalitarianism. A chronic weakness of democracy is the lack of assurance that the majority can come up, at any one time, with the right answers, or with answers sufficiently right to ensure the continuance of democracy. The majority...


    • Some Letters from the Closed Society
      (pp. 159-244)

      In this brief book I have made no effort to tell the day-by-day story of the events in Mississippi leading up to and since the insurrection of September 30, 1962. This is a story crying to be told, but it would require more tune than is at my disposal. Furthermore it would require a thorough search into the files of the United States Department of Justice, the Board of Trustees of Higher Learning, the offices of the governor and attorney general of Mississippi, dozens of newspapers and magazines across the country, and many other agencies and individuals. That would be...

  6. Index
    (pp. 245-250)