Civil Rights, Culture Wars

The Fight over a Mississippi Textbook

By Charles W. Eagles

312 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 6 halftones, notes, index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3115-8
    Published: March 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3116-5
    Published: February 2017

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Just as Mississippi whites in the 1950s and 1960s had fought to maintain school segregation, they battled in the 1970s to control the school curriculum. Educators faced a crucial choice between continuing to teach a white supremacist view of history or offering students a more enlightened multiracial view of their state’s past. In 1974, when Random House’s Pantheon Books published Mississippi: Conflict and Change (written and edited by James W. Loewen and Charles Sallis), the defenders of the traditional interpretation struck back at the innovative textbook. Intolerant of its inclusion of African Americans, Native Americans, women, workers, and subjects like poverty, white terrorism, and corruption, the state textbook commission rejected the book, and its action prompted Loewen and Sallis to join others in a federal lawsuit (Loewen v. Turnipseed) challenging the book ban.

Charles W. Eagles explores the story of the controversial ninth-grade history textbook and the court case that allowed its adoption with state funds. Mississippi: Conflict and Change and the struggle for its acceptance deepen our understanding both of civil rights activism in the movement’s last days and of an early controversy in the culture wars that persist today.

About the Author

Charles W. Eagles is William F. Winter Professor of History at the University of Mississippi.
For more information about Charles W. Eagles, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

“Eagles's imaginative recovery of a civil rights moment informs readers about the accomplishment of two courageous professors from Tougaloo and Millsaps Colleges. . . . Congratulations to Eagles and the University of North Carolina Press on their splendid achievement in this pathbreaking publication. Essential.”--Choice

“Eagles] builds his narrative around primary sources. . . . He not only sets the stage for the story, he gives us succinct biographical information on the players.”--Jackson Clarion-Ledger

“Eagles helps us recognize the significance of . . . cultural action through his detailed and clearly written account of the conflicts over Mississippi: Conflict and Change.”--Educational Policy

“This is a fascinating account of the controversy surrounding the publication of the textbook Mississippi: Conflict and Change. Though it was pathbreaking in its treatment of race and the inclusion of African American history, no one has really told this story—certainly not in the detail on display here—and by putting this seemingly small event into a larger context, Eagles, like the textbook itself, significantly broadens our understanding of Mississippi history.”—Charles C. Bolton, author of William F. Winter and the New Mississippi: A Biography

Civil Rights, Culture Wars is a wonderful contribution to the history of education, revealing how textbooks and curriculums are often the result of a hidden political process that involves multiple sets of actors with different—and at times opposing—ideological and educational positions. In studying the controversial life of this ninth-grade Mississippi history textbook, Eagles masterfully shows us how this process operates over time, shining a spotlight on the role of the ‘state’ in defining what can and cannot be taught in the classroom.”—Michael W. Apple, author of Official Knowledge