Category: Politics

‘We Were Eight Years in Power’ is a vital addition to nation’s racial conversation

By Jim Ewing. Special to the Clarion-Ledger Sunday print edition (October 1)

8 years in powerIn Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book of essays We Were Eight Years in Power (One World), he recalls that he felt at odds with himself when penning the first one for The Atlantic in 2007.

Barack Obama was running for president but, as a black man, was hardly thought then to be a full-on contender. Coates’ feeling of being adrift was shared with young black men and women across the country. They were “lost in a Bermuda triangle of the mind or stranded in the doldrums of America.”

Obama’s election changed that, he writes. But it also changed the nation’s dialogue on race, one that continues with an urgency underscored by the headlines of the day.

The book is composed of the eight essays he wrote for The Atlantic during each of the eight years of the nation’s first black presidency, along with current commentary. But it is Reconstruction in the South that the title of the book refers to, quoting W.E.B. DuBois, that: “If there was one thing… (whites) feared more than bad Negro government, it was good Negro government.”

With the rise of Donald Trump after a period of “good Negro government,” it can be argued we are witnessing from Washington and much of the country that frame of mind today. It’s manifested in displays by sports figures taking a knee in solidarity against police brutality against blacks, racial profiling, social inequality, disparities in education and opportunity, fueled by a president who finds no qualm in siding with Nazi protesters while calling those who demonstrate against it “sons of bitches.”

Before Obama, the idea of a black president lived as “a kind of cosmic joke,” Coates writes. “White folks, whatever their talk of freedom and liberty, would not allow a black president.” Witness, Emmett Till’s audacity to look at a white woman, the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “turned the other cheek, and they blew it off.”

Lincoln was killed for emancipation, Freedom Riders were beaten for advocating for voting rights, Medgar Evers was shot down in his driveway “like a dog.”

“That a country that once took whiteness as the foundation for citizenship would elect a black president,” Coates writes, “is a victory. But to view this victory as racism’s defeat is to forget the precise terms on which it was secured.”

It encapsulates a paradox: America couldn’t elect “a black man,” but it could elect a qualified man who was black–as long as he didn’t evince blackness.

Coates’ outstanding previous book, Between the World and Me, was as much a plea for understanding race consciousness as a denouncement of racism in America.

The question it raised in 2015: Is this plea heard? By whom? And are the intractable problems of race solvable by a society founded on centuries of racial and economic inequality?

In Power, the pleas are gone. Instead, with its contextualizing commentary, it’s a questioning odyssey throughout the Obama years and now of the fact of racial polarization and misunderstanding that colors all attempts at recognizing progress or reversal. It’s an indictment of a nation where even black citizens who hold conservative, mainstream values are turned away from the party that espouses them because of its open appeals to people who hate them.

Power is an exploration in many ways to explain how a society based on Enlightenment values could ignore its essential white supremacy, that the foundational crimes of this crimes of this country are to somehow be considered mostly irrelevant to its existence, as well as those excluded and pillaged in order to bring those values into practice.

Through troubling to read, the aggregate is a journey of wonder, even when topics are troubling, for the deep mental explorations they offer, often without road map or easy conclusions.

Power is an exemplary, perhaps even vital, addition to the national dialogue on race in America.

Jim Ewing, a former writer and editor at The Clarion-Ledger, is the author of seven books including his latest, Redefining Manhood: A Guide for Men and Those Who Love Them.

Author Q & A with Curtis Wilkie

Interview by Jana Hoops. Special to the Clarion-Ledger Sunday print edition (July 9).

Curtis Wilkie

Curtis Wilkie

Mississippi’s iconic journalist and author Curtis Wilkie teams up with his long-time friend and former Boston Globe colleague, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Thomas Oliphant, to bring a new generation of readers–as well as those who still remember the Kennedy/Nixon race of 1960–a wealth of new insights and behind-the-scenes information about one of the closest presidential contests in American history.

Their deeply-detailed account of how the Kennedy machine built and sustained the well-organized long game that carried JFK to victory in 1960 is carefully outlined in The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK’s Five-Year Campaign (Simon & Schuster).

Beginning on page 1 with a blunt explanation of how the timing of the heart attacks of sitting President Dwight Eisenhower and then-Texas Senator Lyndon B. Johnson affected the 1956 race before it even started, Wilkie and Oliphant set a quick pace that covers a lot of political ground in 360-plus pages. As “one of the most vigorous campaign stories of all time,” it helps put today’s political climate in historical context.

Wilkie, a Greenville native and award-winning journalist who spent nearly four decades covering national and international news (including eight presidential elections and the South’s  Civil Rights struggles), now teaches journalism at his alma mater, Ole Miss.

He authored four other books, including Assassins, Eccentrics, Politicians and Other Persons of Interest and The Fall of the House of Zeus.

Oliphant wrote for the Boston Globe as a political reporter for 40 years, and has authored four previous books, including Baseball as a Road to God and Utter Incompetents: Ego and Ideology in the Age of Bush.

Wilkie will appear at the Mississippi Book Festival Aug. 19 as a participant in the U.S. Presidents panel at 1:30 p.m. in the Old Supreme Court Room in the Mississippi Capitol Building in Jackson.

ms book fest

Your new book The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK’s Five-Year Campaign revisits the 1960 presidential campaign that ultimately landed John F. Kennedy in the White House. Why did you two decide to return once more to this story that played out more than half a century ago?

road to camelotIn 2003, I had an idea to write a book about one dramatic afternoon at the 1956 Democratic convention when Kennedy challenged the party establishment and nearly became the vice presidential nominee after Adlai Stevenson asked the delegates to choose his running mate. Even though he lost, Kennedy emerged as a new political star. As a teenager watching the struggle on TV, I had been fascinated. It was the last time any convention has gone past a first ballot.

But no publishing house seemed interested in resurrecting that convention. I even got an audience with Alice Mayhew, the legendary editor at Simon & Schuster, to make a pitch. “Not big enough,” she told me.

Fast forward a decade. My great pal Tom Oliphant–we were colleagues at the Boston Globe for more than 25 years–told me of conversations he had with Ted Sorensen, one of Kennedy’s closest aides, who lamented that in all of the Kennedy corpus of books no one had written an account of the long campaign for the presidency. Teddy White wrote a great book about 1960, but it only dealt with one year. Bingo. We developed a bigger, broader book proposal and a number of houses bid on it. Alice Mayhew won the auction.

Kennedy’s five-year national campaign for president started immediately following his failed attempt to secure the VP spot on the Democrats’ ticket in 1956. At that time, he was a Massachusetts senator without a lot of national recognition. Why did he begin so early?

JFK had always started his campaigns early. When he first ran for Congress in 1946 he outflanked a number of older candidates by getting a head start.

Although John F. Kennedy’s father Joseph Kennedy was one of Boston’s most powerful, wealthy, and politically savvy business tycoons, JFK seemed to have an innate understanding of how to craft his own energetic run for the presidency. Tell me about JFK’s relationship with his father, and how it influenced his life.

No question JFK loved his father. He used his money to finance his campaign. But he disregarded virtually every recommendation the old man had. Joe Kennedy believed his son could win the presidential nomination the old-fashioned way–by getting the support of a handful of power-brokers. Instead, JFK took his campaign to the people in primaries.

One example: Joe Kennedy warned him to avoid the West Virginia primary–too many Protestants lived there who would be dubious of a Catholic. JFK defied his advice, entered and won this pivotal contest. Aside from frequent disagreements over strategy, the father complained that he could no longer talk about foreign policy with his son because their thoughts were so different.

Kennedy, who had surrounded himself with a group of bright, young advisers, preferred a grassroots approach over working with party bosses. Why was this?

Again, this was an example of Kennedy’s approach to elections. He always developed his own loyal organizations and ran outside the party structure. In Massachusetts, JFK had “Kennedy clubs” in virtually every town in the state. When he went national he did the same thing, attracting energetic followers early in each state. By the time potential rivals such as Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Stuart Symington, and Adlai Stevenson decided to grab for the presidential nomination, it was too late.

The 1960 campaign was the first to fully utilize the medium of television, and Kennedy became a master of exploiting the use of TV to his advantage. This was never so obvious as when he engaged in a series of debates with his Republican opponent, Richard Nixon. Explain why television–and those debates in particular–were so pivotal in this campaign.

Because he was charismatic, Kennedy was made for TV. He was our first television candidate. Nixon, meanwhile, looked like he had been sleeping under a bridge. Kennedy understood the medium and was the first candidate to hire media advisers. Substantively, there was really little difference between Kennedy and Nixon. Despite a widespread belief that Kennedy “won” the debates, we discovered during our research at the Kennedy Presidential Library that JFK’s private polls showed that the four debates never really changed the horse race between the two men.

Tell me about the strategy Kennedy used in the campaign to reach out to voters in the South, where Civil Rights and school integration were hot button issues.

As a Southerner, I was naturally interested in this aspect of the Kennedy campaign. Remember at the time that the South was still completely Democratic, but the Southern Democrats were very conservative and most of them were segregationists. Blacks were essentially unable to vote in the South, yet they represented an important constituency in so many of the big Northern states in an arc that ran from New York to places like Illinois and Michigan.

Kennedy walked a tightrope. He had always gotten along with most of the old Southern bulls in the Senate who were chairmen of committees because of their seniority. He had a good relationship, for example, with Senator Jim Eastland of Mississippi–and there were few senators more conservative than Eastland. In that 1956 convention fight, Kennedy wound up winning the support of most of the Southern delegations and that encouraged him to think he could make inroads in the South in 1960. I think he was sophisticated enough to realize that the Southern delegates voted for him in 1956 because he was an alternative to the ultimate victor for the vice presidential nomination, Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee. Kefauvcr was despised in the South because he was a liberal who opposed segregation.

Kennedy made a memorable trip to Jackson in 1957 and went all out to win support in the region. That was right after President Eisenhower was forced to send troops to Little Rock to ensure that court orders were enforced to desegregate Central High School there. Throughout the South, Kennedy was repeatedly asked for a commitment to never back up desegregation orders with troops. Eventually, it became clear that the Southern Democratic bosses preferred Lyndon Johnson, who was then Senate majority leader.

At the same time, Kennedy began to court black leaders in the North more avidly. He understood the importance of their votes. Against the advice of most of his advisers–including his brother Robert, who ran the campaign–JFK made a sympathetic telephone call to Coretta Scott King, who feared for the life of her husband, Martin Luther King, after he had been sent to a Georgia prison on a trumped-up traffic charge. That may have been the most critical decision of the campaign, winning thousands of black votes while Nixon did nothing. Yet Kennedy wound up winning half of the Southern states.

Explain why Kennedy’s Catholicism was a potential political obstacle for a national campaign in America during this time.

Kennedy was forced to promise publicly that the Vatican would not dictate politics in America. In 1960, I was a junior at Ole Miss and I still have vivid memories of the campaign, but I had forgotten how enormous was the Catholic issue.

Billy Graham and other evangelical leaders such as Norman Vincent Peale were actually involved in a conspiracy with the Nixon campaign to prevent the election of a Catholic. Once Kennedy was elected, the issue disappeared. No one considers Catholicism a political problem today.

The last-minute selection of Texas senator Lyndon B. Johnson as Kennedy’s running mate was unexpected, and, for many Kennedy supporters, unwanted. The lengthy account in your book explaining how it came about is as complicated as it is fascinating. Can you boil it down to a brief explanation?

Boiled down, Kennedy needed the electoral votes of Texas, and LBJ’s help in other Southern states to win.

Nixon was a formidable opponent, and the election results turned out to be among the closest in history for a Presidential race. What have been the official explanations for such a close outcome?    

No real “official” explanation, but both men were smart candidates with pockets of strength across the country. Nixon, for example, managed to win California even though Kennedy felt he would carry the state.

In today’s political climate, what do you believe may be some important lessons we can all take away from this real-life story from more than 50 years ago?

Kennedy effectively invented the modern presidential campaign. Running outside the party apparatus was a model for other successful candidates: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama. One can even make an argument that Donald Trump used this same approach. Kennedy was the first to have his own pollster to offer guidance about issues and constituencies. He mastered television. He was the first to exploit the route of the primaries, which everyone uses today.

The Big Uneasy: ‘A Thousand Miles from Nowhere’ and ‘The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear’

I just read two New Orleans-based books that both came out on June 28 and seem to rhyme with each other in peculiar ways: Stuart Stevens’ political dark comedy The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear and John Gregory Brown’s post-Katrina meditation on mental illness A Thousand Miles from Nowhere. The idea of the Big Easy, or the City that Care Forgot, has always been sort of an illusory front for tourists passing through New Orleans. Those names are designed to conjure up images of Mardi Gras floats, Dixieland jazz, football games, and copious amounts of alcohol.

thousand miles from nowhereBut if you live there, the pressures of the quotidian grind and the sum of your life choices catch up with you, just like everywhere else. If that’s where your problems have come to a head, the quietest, sleepiest city in North America will feel like a welcome escape, which is exactly the situation that Henry Garrett, the unwell protagonist of Brown’s A Thousand Miles from Nowhere finds himself in.

Garrett escapes Hurricane Katrina in a daze. When he arrives in Marimore, Virginia, everybody correctly surmises that he has just lost everything but misdiagnoses the cause to the hurricane. In reality, an inherited mental illness Henry just describes as the “clatter” (and his wife’s miscarried pregnancy) has caused him to quit his teaching job, alienate his wife, and blow through his inheritance on an abandoned grocery store (which is now probably flooded).

If that isn’t bad enough, Henry runs over a convict on a work line who rushes out into the middle of the road so that his family can collect a death pension from the state. On the other hand, Henry is also the recipient of copious amounts of grace from everybody from Latangi, the widowed Indian proprietress of his motel, to Marge, the hard-charging judge’s clerk and head of a local church’s women group. While Henry is, to borrow a famous New Orleans phrase, “depending[ing] on the kindness of strangers,” he begins to look outward. He attempts, however brokenly, to help the widow of the man he hit and an old friend, who looks trapped in his New Orleans grocery store.

Jacket (1)Instead of exiting New Orleans mid-breakdown, J.D. Callahan, the protagonist of The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear, reluctantly marches right back into it. He is there for the 2020 Republican National Convention, where he is trying to squeeze a moderate underdog candidate Hilda Smith into the nomination against nationalist Armstrong George (a thinly veiled, even tamped-down, satire of Donald Trump). His own breakdown revolved around a bad break-up from a news anchor girlfriend and a crack-up on Meet the Press. That might seem like a small obstacle compared to Henry Garrett’s, but the scrutiny of politics has a way of raising the stakes. It doesn’t help that the city and convention is already tense from a series of non-fatal bombings around town in the previous few days.

J.D. Callahan shares a snarky disdain for New Orleans culture, shaped surely by Stevens’ own opinions (as sampled earlier in Stevens’ beautiful, lyrical football memoir, The Last Season). Yet underneath this disdain runs a reluctant affection, just as much for the city as for his screwed-up Callahan family that caused J.D. to leave New Orleans in the first place. It’s the same family, however, that comes to his rescue when the political establishment tries to cast him out again.

Henry Garrett and J.D. certainly have many cares that the City that Care Forgot incubates, or exacerbates, or perhaps simply spectates, but these novels are ultimately about redemption. That redemption is hard-won and nurtured by care from the people around them, but realized by a determination to see themselves throughout. Because, even if you start or end in a place called the Big Easy, wherever you go, as they say, there you are.

Signed copies of John Gregory Brown’s A Thousand Miles from Nowhere are available through our web store here. Stuart Stevens will be a panelist at the Mississippi Book Festival at the State Capitol Building on August 20, for Sports and Outdoors at 3:00 and The Presidential Year at 4:15.

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright

Surah CIX

The Disbelievers

As Revealed at Mecca

1: Say: O disbelievers!

2: I worship not that which ye worship;

3: Nor worship ye that I worship.

4: And I shall not worship that which ye worship.

5: Nor will ye worship that which I worship

6: Unto you your religion, and unto me my Religion

Are you a history buff interested in accounts of War—specifically moments like Pearl Harbor, the sinking of the Lusitania, or the Gulf of Tonkin incident? If you are, you must know the potent, practical knowledge of studying instances in which the USA has been forced to abandon ideals of isolation to wage war in foreign lands.
those-who-cannot-remember-the-past-are-condemned-to-repeat-it-george-santayanaI have met professional and amateur historians that rattle off facts and stories about D-Day, Pearl Harbor, or the A-bombing of Japan as if they stood there with omniscience on each of those days—but I have met very few people that are receptive to the same, vivid discussion concerning what happened on 9/11.

This is understandable; the wounds of 9/11 have hardly scabbed over. We still feel an emotional connection to the event and there is a collective seething just beneath the surface of our skins that makes objectivity an arduous pursuit. Alas, in order to channel our emotions toward greater resolution we must ready ourselves to have discussions with our peers without the fear of sounding “Un-American” or resorting to branded key words that numb our tongues and blind our vision.

As for many of the most difficult dilemmas, the Shelves of Lemuria may hold the answer.


I had only begun to realize what happened on 9/11, and so six years after the towers fell I decided to buy a first edition copy of The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright from Lemuria. Previously, it had been impressed upon me that the reason we were attacked was the product of an animosity driven by jealousy, silently brooding over seas, seething in envy of American ideals and freedoms.

Jacket (4)The Looming Tower
by Lawrence Wright exposed frailty and incongruence in my own perception of what happened on 9/11, 2001. The pages of this work armed me with a powerful weapon—understanding. Besides my own heartfelt praise, The Looming Tower has been internationally lauded as a must read by a myriad of authorities, and won the Pulitzer Prize. After finishing The Looming Tower I feel it is my civic duty to encourage you to read this book.

Within the book, Wright makes poignant elaborations concerning the atmosphere that propelled the atrocities of 9/11. Much of The Looming Tower is spent analyzing Osama Bin Laden’s complex relationship with the West and with Saudi Arabia. An effort is spent to humanize Bin Laden and understand the importance of his exile from Saudi Arabia and the dual issuance of Fatwas against Saudi Arabia and the United States concerning the presence of an American military base on Islamic ground.

The Looming Tower makes the claim that Bin Laden’s expulsion from Saudi Arabia, where he was gaining traction as a populist mobilizer, led to his formation as an internationally sought financier and organizer of several grass roots extremist organizations. Bin Laden allowed the hunger for retribution corrupt his high levels of education and pervert his ideology towards gruesome ends. His thirst for vengeance upon the religious and political elites of Saudi Arabia catalyzed his momentum towards the violent culmination of 9/11.

Bin Laden’s motive as shown in The Looming Tower for organizing the hijackings of 9/11 was a strategic maneuver of wicked guile. He wished to strike the Saudi government, but found his organizations’ numbers too small to carry out such an audacious move—so he did the one thing that would become the legacy of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: improvisation.

The lesson applied to The Looming Tower explains to me why Bin Laden attacked America in the first place. The thousands in the Towers, on the planes, and working in the pentagon were doves—completely innocent to motives and intentions of Bin Laden. The American Air Force, being the metaphoric red-tailed hawks theoretically would have become hungry for large meals of the religious and political elite of Saudi Arabia (being the metaphoric timber rattlers).

The stratagem was quite simple: attack Saudi Arabia by proxy. Al-Qaeda casted the 9/11 hijackers nearly exclusively from Saudi Arabia in order to illicit a violent response toward Saudi Arabia from the US. The intent of this design was to make it appear that the attack originated from Salafist and Wahhabi communities within Saudi Arabia, which (in thought) would propel America to employ their tools of war upon the political and religious infrastructure of Saudi Arabia. Perhaps, this could’ve happened if it weren’t for the hard work of our intelligence officers, who understood that the Taliban was housing Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

If you haven’t read a well researched, objective account on Al-Qaeda or extremism in general, The Looming Tower is the best place to start. Come to Lemuria, put the book in your hands and feel the historical proximity of yourself to Wright’s work. Open it, let your emotions flow as the pages turn and you will connect to this book immediately. Then the next step should come naturally: tell others how you feel and what you think should be the next step in “The War on Terror.”


Photo Credit:

Dismantling America by Thomas Sowell

Just wanted to take a moment to highlight a book we got in recently. I’ve mentioned Thomas Sowell’s books here before. His last few books each tackled a particular topic (Intellectuals, or The Housing Boom and Bust), but this new title, Dismantling America and Other Controversial Essays, is a collection of shorter pieces. Sowell is brilliant at exploring and explaining a topic in great depth, but he’s equally good at condensing material down to essay or editorial length.

Every time that I’ve recommended a Thomas Sowell book here on the blog, I’ve worried that perhaps I’m cutting my audience in half before I’ve even started. But I’ll take that risk — and I think Sowell’s books have value even for those who disagree with him. Consider this last election: however you choose to interpret the results, you at least have to acknowledge that voters shifted away from Democratic candidates. Maybe it’s a referendum on Obama. Maybe it’s a growing dissatisfaction with big-government interference. Or maybe it’s simply frustration with the lingering economic stagnation and unemployment. But whatever the actual specific reasons may be, the voters as a group certainly made a different decision than they did in 2008. Sowell has written about all of these issues — Obama’s performance, government power and structure, macroeconomics, and more.

I believe Sowell’s voice is among the most clear, direct, and reasonable within the American political right wing. Read him whether you agree or disagree with him.

Kings of Tort by Alan Lange & Tom Dawson

Literary Jackson indeed!  We hadn’t caught our breath from the Kathryn Stockett events before we were hit by another good one.  Yesterday evening we had Alan Lange and Tom Dawson, the two authors of Kings of Tort, pay us a visit.  In case you didn’t get this book for Christmas, Kings of Tort came out in December last year and is about the Dickie Scruggs/Paul Minor fiasco that embarrassed and stunned Mississippi and the rest of the country in 2007.  Read John’s blog about it, written just before it came out.

After simply being around this book so much, it was really nice to hear Dawson and Lange talk about it.  These are two men who have completely immersed themselves in this scandal for years now, and what was so pleasant about listening to them speak was witnessing how excited and involved they still get when they talk about it.   One thing I realized after last night is that not only is the Scruggs/Minor story itself fascinating, the story of how this book came about – and the wealth of research involved in writing it – is interesting.  John’s blog described it as a ‘must-read’ for inquiring Mississippians; he’s right.


In Case You missed it: Kings of Tort

lange here is a link to Sid Salter’s piece on Alan Lange and Tom Dawson’s book Kings of Tort.

Kings of Tort: The True Story of Dickie Scruggs by Alan Lange & Tom Dawson

kingstortbigKings of Tort: The True Story of Dickie Scruggs, Paul Minor and Two Decades of Political and Legal Manipulation in Mississippi

By Alan Lange and Tom Dawson

For almost 20 years, we’ve opened our morning newspapers and followed the saga of asbestos and cigarette lawsuits, Katrina insurance mess, and bribery of legal and judiciary officials. These stories, with the ongoing civil rights reporting of Jerry Mitchell, have made these issues of our time most interesting to follow.

The Dickie Scruggs news has produced much confusion for the observer:

Good guy or bad guy?

Brilliant for sure, we thought!

Powerful, no doubt, but lots of money usually gives one power and influence

Always these questions have led to the overall big question of ethics. Over these years the pieces of this jigsaw puzzle have been turned over. Kings now fits the pieces together for the reader to get a clear picture of the sequence of events.

Kings starts in the late 80s and traces Scruggs’ rise and fall path, along the way culprits come and go. Lange and Dawson weave together this story in a compelling fashion to give the reader insight and a clear time line.

Kings reads with all the characteristics of a novel, yet it is not. It seems truthful without too much author grandstanding and personal agenda. Leanly written, without too much flowery embellishment, reading takes on the fast pace of a thriller.

For me, Kings is a cross of Jack Nelson’s fine Terror in the Night and an early Grisham legal thriller.

This is a must-read for inquiring Mississippians.

Alan Lange and Tom Dawson will be at Lemuria Thursday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.

Campaigning for President by Jordan M. Wright

I really have enjoyed looking through this book, Campaigning for President. This book is full of Jordan M. Wright’s personal collection of presidential election memorabilia, from posters, paper dresses, dolls, and buttons dating back to George Washington. This book really lets us know that money has always been important in campaigns and how candidates really came up with some creative ways to represent themselves to the American public.

In Search of Another Country by Joseph Crespino

in search of another countryIn the 1960s, Mississippi was the heart of white southern resistance to the civil-rights movement. To many, it was a backward-looking society of racist authoritarianism and violence that was sorely out of step with modern liberal America. White Mississippians, however, had a different vision of themselves and their country, one so persuasive that by 1980 they had become important players in Ronald Reagan’s newly ascendant Republican Party.

In this ambitious reassessment of racial politics in the deep South, Joseph Crespino reveals how Mississippi leaders strategically accommodated themselves to the demands of civil-rights activists and the federal government seeking to end Jim Crow, and in so doing contributed to a vibrant conservative countermovement. Crespino explains how white Mississippians linked their fight to preserve Jim Crow with other conservative causes–with evangelical Christians worried about liberalism infecting their churches, with cold warriors concerned about the Communist threat, and with parents worried about where and with whom their children were schooled. Crespino reveals important divisions among Mississippi whites, offering the most nuanced portrayal yet of how conservative southerners bridged the gap between the politics of Jim Crow and that of the modern Republican South.

This book lends new insight into how white Mississippians gave rise to a broad, popular reaction against modern liberalism that recast American politics in the closing decades of the twentieth century.

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