|Mississippi: Conflict and Change|
After getting a grant from the Southern Education Foundation, I recruited students and faculty from Tougaloo College and from Millsaps College, the nearby white college, to write a new textbook of Mississippi history, aimed at ninth-grade students. "Mississippi History" was required in ninth grade and also in fifth grade, requirements enacted by the legislature in 1956 as part of the white supremacist reaction to Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that called for school desegregation. The idea had been to defend "the Southern way of life" (racial segregation) by indoctrinating white and black students to believe that the only time African Americans were allowed to be citizens (Reconstruction) was a disaster. It wasn't true, but teaching it was effective in convincing even black students of this lie.
|Assessments of Mississippi: Conflict and Change|
The University of North Carolina Press recently released a new book by Ole Miss historian Charles W. Eagles, Civil Rights, Culture Wars: The Fight over a Mississippi Textbook. It tells the story of the project that created the new textbook, describes the product, and then tells of the lawsuit required to force its adoption by the State of Mississippi.
The lead article in The Journal of Mississippi History, 72#1 (Spring 2010) is Rebecca Miller Davis, "The Three R's -- Reading, 'Riting, and Race: The Evolution of Race in Mississippi History Textbooks," pp. 1-45. She concluded, "Conflict and Change and the court case that put it in the schools were turning points for Mississippi education ..."
In the federal lawsuit, Loewen et al. v. Turnipseed et al. (488 F. Supp. 1138), Judge Orma Smith concluded "that the textbook Mississippi: Conflict and Change was not rejected for any justifiable reason." Instead, "the rejection of this textbook was motivated and influenced by racial issues."
A year after Pantheon published Mississippi: Conflict and Change, out of the blue appeared in the mail a copy of a 24-page booklet, "Two History Texts: a Study in Contrast" (NYC: The Racism and Sexism Resource Center for Educators, 1976). Affiliated with the Council on Interracial Books for Children, a NYC organization that was important in the 1970s, its author, Robert B. Moore, compared our book to John Bettersworth's Your Mississippi. He called Conflict and Change "far superior in form and content to all history textbooks we have seen." Your Mississippi, on the other hand, on the other hand, "should not have been adopted" because it "is too distorted, biased, and full of omissions to qualify for use as a history text."