The Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and the Kennedy Administration 1960-1964: A History in Documents

  • 12:00 - 1:15 PM
  • Wasserstein Hall, 2036 Milstein East A, Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA

A book talk by James P. Marshall. Co-sponsored by the Harvard Law School Program of Study in Law and History.

Book will be available for sale by the Harvard Law School Coop.

In the early 1960s, civil rights activists and the Kennedy administration engaged in parallel, though not always complementary, efforts to overcome Mississippi’s extreme opposition to racial desegregation. In The Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and the Kennedy Administration, 1960–1964, James P. Marshall uncovers this history through primary source documents that explore the legal and political strategies of the federal government, follows the administration’s changing and sometimes contentious relationship with civil rights organizations, and reveals the tactics used by local and state entities in Mississippi to stem the advancement of racial equality.

A historian and longtime civil rights activist, Marshall collects a vast array of documents from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and excerpts from his own 1960s interviews with leading figures in the movement for racial justice. This volume tracks early forms of resistance to racial parity adopted by the White Citizens’ Councils and chapters of the Ku Klux Klan at the local level as well as by Mississippi congressmen and other elected officials who used both legal obstructionism and extra-legal actions to block efforts meant to promote integration. Quoting from interviews and correspondence among the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee members, government officials, and other constituents of the Democratic Party, Marshall also explores decisions about voter registration drives and freedom rides as well as formal efforts by the Kennedy administration―including everything from minority hiring initiatives to federal litigation and party platform changes―to exert pressure on Mississippi to end segregation.

Through a carefully curated selection of letters, interviews, government records, and legal documents, The Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and the Kennedy Administration, 1960–1964 sheds new light on the struggle to advance racial justice for African Americans living in the Magnolia State.

This event is free and open to the public.