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Sons of Mississippi: Book summary and reviews of Sons of Mississippi by Paul Hendrickson

Sons of Mississippi

A Story of Race and Its Legacy

by Paul Hendrickson

Sons of Mississippi

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Book Summary

"Sons of Mississippi recounts the story of seven white Mississippi lawmen depicted in a horrifically telling 1962 Life magazine photograph - and of the racial intolerance that is their legacy." "In that photograph, which appears on the front of this jacket, the lawmen (six sheriffs and a deputy sheriff) admire a billy club with obvious pleasure, preparing for the unrest they anticipate - and to which they clearly intend to contribute - in the wake of James Meredith's planned attempt to integrate the University of Mississippi. In finding the stories of these men, Paul Hendrickson gives us an extraordinarily revealing picture of racism in America at that moment. But his ultimate focus is on the part this legacy has played in the lives of their children and grandchildren." One of them is a grandson - a high school dropout and many times married - who achieves an elegant poignancy in his struggle against the racism to which he sometimes succumbs. One son is a sheriff, as his father was - and in the same town. Another grandson patrols the U.S. border with Mexico - a law enforcement officer like the two generations before him - driven by the beliefs and deeds of his forebears. In all the portraits, we see how the prejudice bequeathed by the fathers has been transformed, or remained untouched, in the sons.

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Book Awards

  • award image National Book Critics Circle Award, 2003

Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A] powerful, unsettling, and beautifully told account of Mississippi's still painful past. " - PW

"The writing is compelling, but the typeface is small and a little difficult to read." - KLIATT

"[A] thoughtful and illuminating portrait of American racial attitudes. Highly recommended" - Library Journal

"A Faulknerian inquiry that circles back on itself as it reveals the heart of Dixie’s attempt to shed the instilled behavior of American apartheid as well as its legal code." - Kirkus

ook about an ugly time in America's South. It's been a long time since I have been so moved" - LA Times

"As the book unfolds, the reader is pulled across the confusing terrain of the past: back through the men's childhoods and then forward through their lives and those of their children and grandchildren." - The Washington Post

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Author Information

Paul Hendrickson Author Biography

Photo: Michael Lionstar

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 has been the recipient of writing fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lyndhurst Foundation, and the Alicia Patterson Foundation. In 2009 he was a joint visiting professor of documentary practice at Duke University and of American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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