In 1962, when Air Force veteran James Meredith entered the University of Mississippi at Oxford, over the strenuous objections of the state’s white power structure, led by Governor Ross Barnett, who stood against the weight of the United States government, it led to several days of rioting and bloodshed. This was not, however, an isolated incident in the turbulent Civil Rights era of the 1960s, but a continuation of a struggle that had plagued the nation’s poorest state since the Civil War and before, as whites in Mississippi fought to retain their ‘privileged’ status vis a vis black citizens of the state; a struggle that infected much of the rest of the country while it came to terms with how to deal with its minority populations.
The Past That Would Not Die by Walter Lord was written originally in 1965, and has been reissued in e-Book format. The result of extensive research and interviews with participants in this epic struggle, it offers a rare insight into America’s struggle with race and class that has some bearing on current populist movements in that it shows how economic upheaval can cause people to look for ‘others’ to blame for their misfortunes, and how politicians can manipulate feelings of dispossession to unfortunate ends.
This book will aid those interested in history to better understand a dark chapter in American history, but also help in understanding some of the undercurrents in today’s society. It is disturbing and enlightening at the same time, and a must-read for anyone wanting to get behind the headlines.
A five-star read!