The Summer Of Our Discontent

Although marred by the grisly murders of three young activists, the Freedom Summer of 1964 brought revolutionary changes to Mississippi and the nation

On the first day of summer in 1964, three young activists piled into a blue station wagon in Meridian, Mississippi, and headed into Klan country. Across America, it was Father’s Day, a lazy holiday of picnics, barbecues, and doubleheaders. Transistor radios blared early Beatles hits. TV commercials urged motorists to “Put a Tiger in Your Tank.” High above in Air Force One, President Lyndon Johnson flew home from California, content with the state of the union. The economy was booming, inflation was at 1.2 percent, and gas cost 30 cents a gallon.Read more »

Going Home With Mark Twain

WILLIE MORRIS revisits a book that nourished him as a boy and discovers that the landscapes the young Samuel Clemens navigated are in fact the topography of Morris’s own life

MARK TWAIN WAS BORN ALMOST EXACTLY A century before I was into a small-town Mississippi Valley culture that, despite the centennial difference, bore remarkable resemblances to my own. I took his work to my heart at an early age and have retained my regard for the best of it ever since. Shortly before my sixtieth birthday I returned to Life on the Mississippi for the first time since high school in my little town in Mississippi.Read more »

The Forgotten Triumph Of The Paw Paw

Unloved and unlovely, the fragile boats of the “Tinclad Navy” ventured, Lincoln said, “wherever the ground was a little damp,” and made a contribution to the Western war that has never been sufficiently appreciated

In the late summer and autumn of 1864 two brothers, Norman and George Carr, aged twenty-two and twenty-four respectively, left their upstate New York home of Union Springs to join the United States Navy. The motives that sent them may have been complex. Their father, who operated sail- and steamboats on Lake Cayuga, had previously kept them out of military service by paying for substitutes.Read more »

The Water In Which You Swim

William Ferris, fifty-two years old, is a prolific writer in folklore, American literature, fiction, and photography and is co-editor of the monumental Encyclopedia of Southern Culture . Since 1979 he has been the director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. His establishment is quartered in the recently renovated Barnard Observatory on the beautiful, wooded Ole Miss campus.Read more »

The Word Is ‘Slaves’: A Trip Into Black History

Deep South states are taking the lead in promoting landmarks of a three-hundred-year heritage of oppression and triumph—and they’re drawing visitors from around the world

Kate is waiting for us by the kitchen garden. Her owner, Benjamin Powell, has warned us that she “often has a case of the grumps,” so we approach her cautiously. I am with a class of fourth graders from Nashville, Tennessee, and together we are taking a trip back to 1770, the year at which time has stopped in Colonial Williamsburg. Despite the difference in our ages, the children and I have things in common: we are white, and we have never met a slave before. Read more »

Seeking The Greatest Bluesman

Robert Johnson died in obscurity in 1938; since then he has gradually gained recognition as a genius of American music. Only recently have the facts of his short, tragic life become known.

Who was Robert Johnson? For so many years that question haunted all of us who loved the blues. Certainly we knew about Robert Johnson’s music. He had time to make only a handful of recordings before he died at the age of twenty-seven in 1938, and outside of the small towns of the Mississippi Delta country where he had grown up he was almost completely unknown.Read more »

Going For The Horns

The 1,200-Mile Race Between the Natchez and the Robert E. Lee

The first days of July, 1870, found busy river ports along the Mississippi stewing in an unprecedented atmosphere of oppressive, sticky heat and blazing excitement all the way from St. Louis to New Orleans. Roaring upriver under full steam past crowded wharves and levees sped the two most famous steamboats of the day—the Natchez and the Robert E. Lee . Read more »

Natchez Yesterdays

A Tireless Photographer’s Record of a River Town

FORTY YEARS ON GLASS Read more »

The Mississippi Bubble

The curious table shown opposite, with its montage of hand-painted scenes, commemorates a grand financial debacle in eighteenth-century France that was commonly known as the Mississippi Bubble. The bubble was blown by John Law, a native of Scotland whose brain worked like a computer and who for a couple of years was the most powerful man in the French government with the possible exception of the Duc d’Orléans, regent for the boy-king Louis XV. Read more »

Mules

IN THE DELTA

The low-lying Delta—six and a half million acres of land rich with soil left by the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers in flood—was first opened to a cotton-hungry world in the mid-1820’s. The price of cotton was high. The profitable bluff country along the Mississippi had already been pre-empted. Second sons and questing newcomers were pressing for a chance of their own. Read more »