The Movement in Mississippi: Jackson’s Role in Civil Rights

During a thought-provoking week, learn about the role that Mississippi played in the Civil Rights Movement from scholars and a veteran Freedom Rider and visit landmarks of the Movement.
Rating (5)
Program No. 23428RJ
6 days
Starts at

At a Glance

The murder of NAACP leader Medgar Evers in 1963 was one of the major catalysts that led to the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Stand in the footsteps of Evers and other activists as you learn about the role Jackson played in the Civil Rights Movement. Visit sites that mark the milestones of the Movement in and around Jackson, from the churches where Civil Rights groups organized, to the lunch counters where sit-ins took place, to the Greyhound bus station, where Freedom Riders were arrested. Discuss the literary works of authors inspired by the Movement, be inspired by a performance of freedom songs, and meet a real Freedom Rider during this thought-provoking week.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Meet Hezekiah Watkins, one of the remaining Freedom Riders, as he shares his experiences in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.
  • Stand where Medgar Evers stood when he was assassinated as you visit his home, which became a National Historic Landmark in 2018.
  • At the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, interact with galleries that reveal the oppression of Blacks and how their fight for equality transformed the nation.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Joe T. Patterson and the White South’s Dilemma: Evolving Resistance to Black Advancement
by Robert E. Luckett
As Mississippi's attorney general from 1956 to 1969, Joe T. Patterson led the legal defense for Jim Crow in the state. He was inaugurated for his first term two months before the launch of the Sovereignty Commissionwhich made manifest a century-old states' rights ideology couched in the rhetoric of massive resistance. Despite dubious legal foundations of that agenda, Patterson supported the organization's mission from the start and served as an ex-officio leader on its board for the rest of his life. Patterson was also a card-carrying member of the segregationist Citizens' Council and, in his own words, had "spent many hours and driven many miles advocating the basic principles for which the Citizens' Councils were originally organized." Few ever doubted his Jim Crow credentials. That is until September 1962 and the integration of the University of Mississippi by James Meredith. That fall Patterson stepped out of his entrenchment by defying a circle of white power brokers, but only to a point. His seeming acquiescence came at the height of the biggest crisis for Mississippi's racist order. Yet even after the Supreme Court decreed that Meredith must enter the university, Patterson opposed any further desegregation and despised the federal intervention at Ole Miss. Still he faced a dilemma that confronted all white southerners: how to maintain an artificially elevated position for whites in southern society without resorting to violence or intimidation. Once the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Meredith v. Fair, the state attorney general walked a strategic tightrope, looking to temper the ruling's impact without inciting the mob and without retreating any further. Patterson and others sought pragmatic answers to the dilemma of white southerners, not in the name of civil rights but to offer a more durable version of white power. His finesse paved the way for future tactics employing duplicity and barely yielding social change while deferring many dreams.
The Race Beat
by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff
In “The Race Beat,” the veteran journalists Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff painstakingly trace the evolution of civil rights press coverage in the South from the publication of “An American Dilemma,” by Gunnar Myrdal, in 1944 to the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Myrdal, an economist and a Swede, was no journalist. But he was probably the first observer, the authors say, to argue that “the future of race relations ... rested largely in the hands of the American press.” The best antidote to racial prejudice and discrimination, Myrdal believed, was the dissemination of accurate information. “There is no doubt,” he wrote, “that a great majority of white people in America would be prepared to give the Negro a substantially better deal if they knew the facts.”
The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
This #1 New York Times bestselling novel and basis for the Academy Award-winning film is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t. It has been nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read. Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Miss., who’s always taken orders quietly, but lately she’s unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter has just graduated from college. She’s full of ambition, but without a husband, she’s considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town. Set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement in Jackson, Miss., the novel has inspired a driving tour of Jackson, available online.
I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement
by Charles M. Payne
I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement is by Charles M. Payne, who holds degrees from Syracuse University and Northwestern University and is now professor emeritus at Duke University. NOTE: This book can be read online by going to www.books.google.com. Payne moves far away from the top-down narrative and focuses on the grassroots organizing tradition specific to Mississippi. The book cites specific struggles of everyday people. For them, fighting back was not a choice but a necessary way of life. Payne shows how people who come together can make change under the most hoary of circumstances. I’ve Got the Light of Freedom opens with in-depth depictions of the systematic racial terrorism that blacks endured. Chapter One goes into extreme detail of the lynchings that occurred in Mississippi between 1930 and 1950. Including names, dates, methods, and circumstances, this information serves to humanize the masses. Payne seeks to prove that the Civil Rights movement was not the work and success of a few respectively charismatic and militant leaders.
Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi
by John Dittmer
Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi is by John Dittmer, professor at DePauw University in Indiana, Tougaloo College in Mississippi, MIT and Brown University. The book won the Bancroft Prize in American History, the Lillian Smith Book Award, Southern Regional Council, McLemore Prize, Mississippi Historical Society, and 1995 Outstanding Book on the subject of human rights in North America given by the Gustavus Myers Center. For decades the most racially repressive state in the nation fought bitterly and violently to maintain white supremacy. John Dittmer traces the monumental battle waged by civil rights organizations and by local people, particularly courageous Black, who were willing to put their lives on the line to establish basic human rights for all citizens. Local People tells the whole grim story in depth, from the unsuccessful attempts of black World War II veterans to register to vote to the seating of a civil rights-oriented Mississippi delegation at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Heartrending is Dittmer's account of the tumultuous decade of the 1960s: the freedom rides of 1961, which resulted in the imprisonment at Parchman of dozens of participants; the violent reactions to protests in McComb and Jackson and to voter registration drives in Greenwood and other cities; the riot in Oxford when James Meredith enrolled at Ole Miss; the cowardly murder of long-time leader Medgar Evers; and the brutal Klan lynchings of civil rights workers Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman during the Freedom Summer of 1964. Dittmer looks closely at the actions of the Kennedy administration, which bowed to Mississippi's powerful senators, John Stennis and James Eastland. Among stories are Fannie Lou Hamer, the Sunflower County sharecropper who helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic party, and other leaders.
Native Son
by Richard Wright
This best seller is by Natchez native Richard Wright. Published in 1940, the novel is set in Chicago and clearly details the results of racism throughout the United States.
Brother Hollis: The Sankofa of a Movement Man
by Hollis Watkins with C. Liegh McInnis
"Brother Hollis" is the first book written by a native Mississippian who was engaged in grassroots organizing in the state as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the 1960s. This book takes us to the roots of Mississippi’s movement via Hollis’ rural roots in Southwest Mississippi. Beginning with the McComb Mississippi Movement in the early days of SNCC in 1961 and continuing to his work with Southern Echo today, Watkins has dedicated his life to the freedom struggle. Thus, Brother Hollis is an in-depth analysis of the Civil Rights Movement written by one of its most important participants. Threaded throughout the book are analysis and criticism of the black leadership establishment. Watkins makes an important distinction between the NAACP’s national leadership and its local leadership to show the diversity of ideology, strategy, and commitment by local Movement workers to the common folk of Mississippi.
Brother Hollis: The Sankofa of a Movement Man
by Hollis Watkins and C. Liegh McInnis
Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders
by Eric Etheridge
This is a beautifully-produced book that celebrates the Freedom Riders, featuring rarely seen mug shots alongside stunning contemporary portraits. In the spring and summer of 1961, several hundred Americans—blacks and whites, men and women—converged on Jackson, Mississippi, to challenge state segregation laws. The Freedom Riders, as they came to be known, were determined to open up the South to civil rights: it was illegal for bus and train stations to discriminate, but most did and were not interested in change. Over 300 people were arrested and convicted of the charge "breach of the peace."
Where Is the Voice Coming From?
by Eudora Welty
The New Yorker, July 6, 1963 P. 24. You can go online to view the article. You must be a subscriber to the magazine. This is a first-person account of the killing by a white Southerner of a Negro NAACP leader in his town. He waited for the victim outside his home, and around 4:30 AM, when the temperature was 92, he shot the Negro. He was motivated by nothing except his own pure-D satisfaction. At the end of the story he had not yet been apprehended, and he speculated that in his town of Thermopylae things would soon be as bad as New York and Chicago. (This story parallels a true occurrence: Medgar Evers, an NAACP leader in Jackson, Miss., was murdered. Byron de La Beckwith was charged with the crime and after many years, convicted.)
The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi
by Ted Ownby
The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi is edited by Ted Ownby, who holds degrees from Vanderbilt University and Johns Hopkins University. Ownby is William Winter Professor of History, Director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, and author of numerous books about Southern culture. He is editor of Black and White: Cultural Interaction in the Antebellum South and coeditor of the Mississippi Encyclopedia. This multi-disciplinary collection of essays grew out of the eponymous 2010 Porter Fortune, Jr. History Symposium sponsored by the University of Mississippi. While the main focus of the collection is historical, scholars from a variety of disciplines—political science, religious studies, sociology—make contributions. Ownby outlines four directions in contemporary civil rights movement scholarship: a move from the national to the local; an intentional scholarly broadening of the movement’s scope prior to the mid-1950s and beyond the late 1960s; an increased attention to what constitutes the “political”; and a focus upon the contours of white resistance and African-American responses to it.
Eudora Welty: A Biography
by Suzanne Marrs
Eudora Welty's works are treasures of American literature. When her first short-story collection was published in 1941, it heralded the arrival of a genuinely original writer, who over the decades wrote hugely popular novels, novellas, essays, and a memoir, One Writer's Beginnings, that became a national bestseller. By the end of her life, Welty (who died in 2001) had been given the Pulitzer Prize and nearly every other literary award and was all but shrouded in admiration.
This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer
by Kay Mills
This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer is by Kay Mills, freelance writer and member of the editorial board, the Los Angeles Times. With degrees from Pennsylvania State University and Northwestern University, she worked for Senator Edmund Muskie during the 1970s and for the Newhouse newspaper chain. Mills’ biography of the civil rights activist from Mississippi reveals one of the most important African-American women of our time as well as an inside look at the Civil Rights movement. The book tells the story of a poor Mississippi sharecropper who defied the repressive political system of the '60s South by trying to register to vote.
“Civil Rights Movement,” Mississippi Encyclopedia
by Ted Ownby
“Civil Rights Movement,” Mississippi Encyclopedia, is edited by Ted Ownby, University of Mississippi. Numerous entries are by site and subject. NOTE: Entries can be read online by going to Mississippi Encyclopedia.org and entering “Civil Rights Movement.”
Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr
by Michael Vinson Williams
Civil rights activist Medgar Wiley Evers was well aware of the dangers he would face when he challenged the status quo in Mississippi in the 1950s and '60s, a place and time known for the brutal murders of Emmett Till, the Reverend George Lee, Lamar Smith, and others. Nonetheless, Evers consistently investigated the rapes, murders, beatings, and lynchings of black Mississippians and reported the horrid incidents to a national audience, all the while organizing economic boycotts, sit-ins, and street protests in Jackson as the NAACP's first full-time Mississippi field secretary. He organized and participated in voting drives and nonviolent direct-action protests, joined lawsuits to overturn state-supported school segregation, and devoted himself to a career path that eventually cost him his life. This biography of an important civil rights leader draws on personal interviews from Myrlie Evers-Williams.
We Shall Not Be Moved: The Jackson Woolworth's Sit-In and the Movement It Inspired
by Michael O'Brien with foreword by Julian Bond
Once in a great while, a certain photograph captures the essence of an era: Three people--one black and two white--demonstrate for equality at a lunch counter while a horde of cigarette-smoking hotshots pour catsup, sugar, and other condiments on the protesters' heads and down their backs. This iconic image strikes a chord for all who lived through those turbulent times of a changing America. The photograph, which plays a central role in the book's perspectives from frontline participants, caught a moment when the raw virulence of racism crashed against the defiance of visionaries. It now shows up regularly in books, magazines, videos, and museums that endeavor to explain America's largely nonviolent civil rights battles of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Yet for all of the photograph's prominence, the people in it and the events they inspired have only been sketched in civil rights histories.
Black Boy
by Richard Wright
This blockbuster is by a Natchez native. It is an autobiography that clearly describes the Jim Crow Era that preceded the Civil Rights Movement.

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