Sons of Mississippi: A Story of Race and Its Legacy (Paperback)

A Story of Race and Its Legacy

By Paul Hendrickson

Vintage, 9780375704253, 368pp.

Publication Date: January 6, 2004



They stand as unselfconscious as if the photograph were being taken at a church picnic and not during one of the pitched battles of the civil rights struggle. None of them knows that the image will appear in Life magazine or that it will become an icon of its era. The year is 1962, and these seven white Mississippi lawmen have gathered to stop James Meredith from integrating the University of Mississippi. One of them is swinging a billy club.

More than thirty years later, award-winning journalist and author Paul Hendrickson sets out to discover who these men were, what happened to them after the photograph was taken, and how racist attitudes shaped the way they lived their lives. But his ultimate focus is on their children and grandchildren, and how the prejudice bequeathed by the fathers was transformed, or remained untouched, in the sons. Sons of Mississippi is a scalding yet redemptive work of social history, a book of eloquence and subtlely that tracks the movement of racism across three generations and bears witness to its ravages among both black and white Americans.

About the Author

Paul Hendrickson, a prizewinning feature writer for the Washington Post for more than twenty years, now teaches nonfiction writing at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Seminary: A Search, Looking for the Light: The Hidden Life and Art of Marion Post Wolcott (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War (a finalist for the National Book Award). He lives with his wife and two sons in Philadelphia. From the Hardcover edition.

Praise For Sons of Mississippi: A Story of Race and Its Legacy

“A beautiful, poetic book about an ugly time in America's South. . . . Meticulously researched, exquisitely written and piercingly poignant.” -– Los Angeles Times

“Profound. . . . Shattering [the] silence was Hendrickson’s goal. Filling it with a meanful, searching record is his tremendous accomplishment.” —Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Hendrickson is a talented writer, with an eye for the telling detail and a comfortable voice that is both personal and lyrical in the style of a James Agee or W. J. Cash.” —Washington Post Book World

“Ambitious. . . . Vivid. . . . Treats the civil rights revolution and resistance not as dusty history but as the best and worst of American culture.” —USA Today