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Released July 9, 2003

SOUTHERN MISS HISTORY PROFESSOR
DOCUMENTS MISSISSIPPI'S COMPLEX PAST

HATTIESBURG - From its rich literary tradition to its troubled political past, Mississippi has always been - historically speaking - a state of extremes.

"Mississippi is a conundrum," said Dr. Bradley Bond, an associate professor of history at The University of Southern Mississippi. "Richard Wright, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty - all of them were alive at the same time in Mississippi reinventing American literature. But at the same time, there was that dark side, too. That's part of its appeal - it's not all good and it's not all bad."

In a new narrative history book published in June by University Press of Mississippi, Bond presents real voices from the state's past to tell its complex story. "Mississippi: A Documentary History" uses a vast array of public records, newspaper articles, academic papers, constitutional amendments, journal entries and other documents to detail chronologically its controversial past and its optimistic present.

Fifteen chapters in all, the book focuses on key elements in Mississippi's evolution, starting with the Choctaw and Chickasaw conflicts during the nation's colonial period and ending with the recent political battle over the new state flag.

In addition to editing and compiling the 272-page book, Bond wrote introductions to each chapter that place the documents in their appropriate historical context. Bond said he wanted to make the book accessible to everyone - students, scholars, lay readers, librarians and archivists. "This all started," he said, "with the realization that there is no single volume history book that chronicles the state of Mississippi."

Bond, also the author of the award-winning Political Culture in the 19th-Century South, gathered much of the information from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson. Preserved there are government manuscripts, personal correspondence, advertisements and a host of other artifacts from the state's past - even old clothing.

In selecting material for the book, Bond said he wanted to find peculiar things about the state that were illustrative of its diverse and complex background. "I really wanted something I could use in the classroom," he said.

One of the more colorful pieces describes child laborers in the early 20th century. Brought down from Baltimore to pick shrimp and shuck oysters on the docks of the Gulf Coast, the children of Eastern European descent worked for pennies a day. Other episodes describe the rampant political violence employed by the Democrats to intimidate voters at the polls in the late 1800s.

"Until 1890, people went to the polls with a color-coded ballot, meaning everyone could see which party you were voting for," Bond said. "The easiest way to deter someone from voting was to stand in the door with an ax handle and attack them if they didn't vote a certain way."

Other chapters detail life in Mississippi during the secession crisis, the Jim Crow era, the Great Depression, the New Deal and the economic development efforts of the late 20th century. Rather than tackling the topic of the Civil Rights movement in its entirety, Bond singled out the state's reaction to Brown versus Board of Education and the turbulence surrounding Freedom Summer.

Bond said, "I wanted something students could really sink their teeth into, but also a general introduction to Mississippi history."

Bond received his bachelor's of arts in history and English from Southern Miss and a Ph.D. in history from Louisiana State. A professor at Southern Miss since 1995, he has also taught at Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, and the University of Mississippi.

"Mississippi: A Documentary History" is available in bookstores throughout the state. To order by phone, call University Press of Mississippi at 1-800-737-7788 or order on-line at www.upress.state.ms.us.

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September 4, 2003 5:21 PM

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