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Southern Spaces
A journal about real and imagined spaces and places of the US South and their global connections

Mississippi as Metaphor State, Region, and Nation in Historical Imagination

Emory University
Published October 23, 2006


Mississippi emerged as an iconic space for the struggle over the meaning of democracy and equality in the South and in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. Examining three metaphors widely used in those years, Professor Joseph Crespino argues that, as "the South on steroids," Mississippi became as much a contentious, imagined space as a real location for addressing national problems of white racism. The Mississippi of metaphor continues to affect, and to limit, how the South and the nation pursue social reform and equality.

Mississippi as Metaphor

Part 2Dr. Crespino discusses and suggests the limits of James Silver’s image of Mississippi as “the closed society”

Part 3Dr. Crespino traces the idea of Mississippi as America writ large: did the “Mississippi Plan” become the American way?

Part 4Dr. Crespino analyzes the role of the scapegoat metaphor of Mississippi as “innocent victim” in segregationist politics

Part 5Dr. Crespino discusses how metaphors can function as instruments as well as obstacles for social and political reform

About Joseph Crespino

Joseph Crespino received his PhD in American History from Stanford University in 2002. His research interests focus on the political culture of twentieth-century America, in particular, the US South. Crespino's first book, In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution (Princeton University Press, 2007), examines segregationist politics in the state generally considered to be the most recalcitrant. He proposes that white Mississippians were key actors in a broad, popular reaction against modern liberalism that reshaped American politics in the closing decades of the twentieth century.

Video of Professor Crespino was taken at "The End of Southern Exceptionalism" conference held at Emory University in March 2006, an event organized by Prof. Crespino of the Emory University History Department and Professor Matt Lassiter of the Department of History at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

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