A New History of Mississippi

A New History of Mississippi

Dennis J. Mitchell
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 672
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrsd2
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    A New History of Mississippi
    Book Description:

    Creating the first comprehensive narrative of Mississippi since the bicentennial history was published in 1976, Dennis J. Mitchell recounts the vibrant and turbulent history of a Deep South state. The author has condensed the massive scholarship produced since that time into an appealing narrative, which incorporates people missing from many previous histories including American Indians, women, African Americans, and a diversity of other minority groups. This is the story of a place and its people, history makers and ordinary citizens alike. Mississippi's rich flora and fauna are also central to the story, which follows both natural and man-made destruction and the major efforts to restore and defend rare untouched areas.

    Hernando De Soto, Sieur d'Iberville, Ferdinand Claiborne, Thomas Hinds, Aaron Burr, Greenwood LeFlore, Joseph Davis, Nathan Bedford Forrest, James D. Lynch, James K. Vardaman, Mary Grace Quackenbos, Ida B. Wells, William Alexander Percy, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Elvis Presley, John Grisham, Jack Reed, William F. Winter, Jim Barksdale, Richard Howorth, Christopher Epps, and too many more to list--this book covers a vast and rich legacy.

    From the rise and fall of American Indian culture to the advent of Mississippi's world-renowned literary, artistic, and scientific contributions, Mitchell vividly brings to life the individuals and institutions that have created a fascinating and diverse state.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-019-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Geographical Introduction: The Place
    (pp. 3-6)

    Water, flooding, and erosion shaped Mississippi for millions of years. Fifty thousand feet of sedimentary rocks underlie the entire state and crop to the surface in a few places, but most of the state is covered with gravel and sand that washed out of the forming mountains to the north or with soils deposited by periodically advancing ice sheets or seas during warmer periods. The sea covered the whole land area many times and left behind clays, including Yazoo clay, which expands and contacts with its moisture content to crumble roads, interstates, and house foundations in the center of the...

  6. Chapter One RISE AND FALL OF INDIAN CULTURE
    (pp. 7-26)

    As the warm, wet land emerged, the Paleoindians adapted. They continued to hunt deer and bear with an improved spear thrown with an atlatl, a throwing device that increased the distance and force of their weapons, but gradually they came to depend more on the fish, alligators, turtles, snakes, birds, and other small creatures in the swamps and rivers. They ate acorns, hickory nuts, walnuts, pecans, persimmons, wild grapes, hackberries, goosefoot, knotweed, and seeds from honey locust. Although they did not practice agriculture, the plant and animal life in the southeastern portion of the United States grew so densely that...

  7. Chapter Two FRONTIER AND BORDERLAND
    (pp. 27-49)

    With the end of the Seven Years War in 1763, the French transferred Natchez into the British colony of West Florida, comprised of what today are southern Mississippi, south Alabama, and the panhandle of Florida. France gave western Louisiana, including New Orleans, to the Spanish. The British made Pensacola the capital of West Florida, which removed Natchez farther than it had been under the French from the center of political power. Most of the territory that became the state of Mississippi continued to be ruled by the Choctaw and Chickasaw, who, as we have seen, did not fare well with...

  8. Chapter Three MISSISSIPPI TERRITORY
    (pp. 50-81)

    In 1798 the newly created Mississippi Territory encompassed the northern portions of the current states of Alabama and Mississippi. The Natchez district consisted of a triangular-shaped piece of land bordered by the thirty-first latitude on the south, the Mississippi River on the west, and a vague line on the east stretching from the southern boundary line northwest to the Walnut Hills at the northern point of the triangle. The Spanish still held all of the outlets to the Gulf of Mexico, including the southern portions of what would become the states of Alabama and Mississippi as well as all of...

  9. Chapter Four FRONTIER DEMOCRACY TO SLAVE SOCIETY
    (pp. 82-115)

    Statehood provided Mississippians with the legal means to press for the surrender of the two-thirds of the state occupied by the Choctaw and Chickasaw, but the politicians appeared in many respects to be minor players in the sweep of people and events transforming the land in a quick rush of building, planting, birthing, and dying. In two decades the state forced the two Indian nations to leave for the West; populated most of the state with counties, towns, farms, and plantations; imported slaves in such numbers that they became the majority of the population; and transformed the state from a...

  10. Chapter Five COTTON KINGDOM
    (pp. 116-153)

    In the late 1830s and early 1840s American surveyors imposed imaginary lines on the Choctaw and Chickasaw homelands, continuing Elliott’s mission begun with the thirty-first parallel dividing American from Spanish territories. Between 1840 and 1860 Mississippi’s population increased from 375,651 to 791,305 as settlers raced to buy the quarter sections identified by the surveyors’ lines. They subdued the land, turning it into towns and farms dedicated to producing cotton extracted from the recent wilderness by teams of oxen hauling heavy wagons across rutted muddy roads, by steamboats navigating unlikely snag-filled shallow streams, and by railroads penetrating the streamless forest areas....

  11. Chapter Six CIVIL WAR: DISASTER AND FREEDOM
    (pp. 154-184)

    In congressional debates, Reuben Davis warned his colleagues that failing to protect slavery and denying slaveholders their right to expand into the territories would lead to war and that southerners would resist coercion even if it meant devastating their homeland and making it a wasteland. Yet despite his prophesy, he supported secession. A decade of rhetoric since a majority of white Mississippians supported the Compromise of 1850 boxed the Democratic lawyer-planters into an inescapable position. Secession became a matter of honor because political leaders gave their word over and over throughout the decade as they escalated the debate to eliminate...

  12. Chapter Seven RECONSTRUCTION: WAR BY OTHER MEANS
    (pp. 185-216)

    The war between the North and South ended in May 1865, but the fighting continued for another decade. Initially, President Johnson, a fellow southerner, encouraged the old planter class to resume their rule of Mississippi with minimal interference from the federal government, but Mississippi’s attempt to limit the freedmen to an inferior caste led congressional Republicans to initiate military rule as a means of guaranteeing the former slaves’ citizenship. The overwhelming majority of white Mississippians rejected the free society embodied in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution and resisted black equality using political maneuvering and ultimately violent...

  13. Chapter Eight REDEMPTION AND BLACK SUBJECTION
    (pp. 217-245)

    Too often the period of Redemption (1876–1903) has been misunderstood as a return to absolute white control; instead, historians have come to view these years as a contentious time when Republicans continued to share power and a variety of political parties challenged the Bourbons, as the Democratic elite became known, for control of state and local government. Intertwined with the political conflict, a racially segregated society emerged with customs designed to remind black Mississippians daily of their status as an inferior caste. White Mississippians bolstered their new political and social system with a civic religion that held the “War...

  14. Chapter Nine ATTEMPTED REVOLT OF THE REDNECKS
    (pp. 246-279)

    The corrupt political and economic system imposed on Mississippi by the Bourbons produced indescribable suffering for the vast majority of the state’s people. Conditions in the state were so bad that northern life insurance companies refused to write policies for Mississippians, and some required their northern policyholders to get permission to visit the state in order to maintain their coverage. Pellagra, a disease caused by inadequate diets, weakened a significant portion of the population who were restricted to eating fatback, corn bread, and molasses by the sharecropping system. Denied opportunities for education, the population endured the nation’s highest illiteracy rates,...

  15. Chapter Ten SEGREGATION: RED, YELLOW, BLACK, AND WHITE
    (pp. 280-305)

    White Mississippians fought to establish their racial superiority after seizing control of the government in 1876. In order to achieve total dominance and feel secure as a ruling minority, whites created a segregation system designed to humiliate blacks as a means of social control. Ultimately the social customs required by whites as daily reminders denied blacks basic human dignity and degraded whites to the point that some performed unspeakable acts of barbarism in ritualistic lynchings designed to shore up the segregation system at the turn of the century. The Mississippi legislature did not pass the first law to enforce the...

  16. Chapter Eleven WAR, DEPRESSION, AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATION
    (pp. 306-348)

    In the period spanning the First World War and the Great Depression, Mississippi struggled with modernity and the destruction of its natural resources. Lumber companies finished clear-cutting the state’s forests without replanting trees on land unsuitable for any other crop and left wastelands of stumps. The state’s denuded hills eroded into its streams and rivers leaving gullies, streams choked by mud, infertile land, and deepening poverty among small farmers who sought admission to the world market and the money economy by raising cotton. Delta planters presided over a precarious cotton kingdom inadequately protected from the rivers’ floods that for centuries...

  17. Chapter Twelve WORLD WAR II, ECONOMIC IMPROVEMENT, AND SOCIAL CONFUSION
    (pp. 349-377)

    When the Second World War began, Mississippi and the nation still lingered in the Depression. Mississippians earned less than half the national per capita income each year. The Balance Agriculture with Industry (BAWI) program had attracted only twelve manufacturing plants employing 2,700 people. Most farmers still sharecropped and raised cotton with mules, but signs of change abounded. Some planters saved their Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) payments and bought tractors. They had used New Deal assistance programs to support their workers in slack seasons, and many of their former tenants had moved into town, where some found work as domestics or...

  18. Chapter Thirteen A CLOSED SOCIETY’S RESPONSE TO CHALLENGE
    (pp. 378-410)

    At the end of the Second World War, Mississippians faced a dilemma. Most Mississippians wanted the new world of supermarkets, automobiles, movies, factory jobs, and suburban homes, but at the same time, whites wanted to preserve racial segregation and deny that lifestyle to blacks. Black Mississippians wanted to end segregation and to attain a standard of living equal to whites. As a minority population before the war, white Mississippians created a society devoid of public spaces. Every restaurant and railroad waiting room became a private club to which they were admitted on the basis of the color of their skin....

  19. Chapter Fourteen THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AND WHITE DEFIANCE
    (pp. 411-473)

    In the 1950s and 1960s Mississippi music rocked the planet as the world watched Mississippians engage in bloody, violent battles over black equality. Sharecropping disappeared as chemicals and machines industrialized agriculture, forcing laborers and small farmers off the land. Towns and rural neighborhoods shriveled and died as general stores closed, automobiles multiplied, and television antennas graced homes sometimes even before the tenants moved their toilet indoors. By 1960, 15.7 percent of the white population air-conditioned their homes, while only 1.5 percent of blacks enjoyed the blessing of a refuge from heat and humidity. African Americans continued to flee the state...

  20. Chapter Fifteen MISSISSIPPI AND THE MODERN WORLD
    (pp. 474-534)

    In the last three decades of the twentieth century and the opening years of the twenty-first, Mississippians struggled to remake their society; to construct a two-party political system; to build schools, libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions; and to understand their past. While accepting and nurturing a large gambling and tourist business, they sought and obtained impressive industrial assets and yet maintained a largely rural landscape fostering a preindustrial social mindset. The Americanization of the state continued apace, but Mississippians learned to cherish their uniqueness and seemed determined to preserve their much-vaunted sense of place.

    Elvis Presley provided the musical...

  21. Further Reading
    (pp. 535-546)
  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 547-582)
  23. Index
    (pp. 583-593)