To most Americans, Mississippi is not a state but a scar, the place where segregation took its ugliest form and struck most savagely at its challengers. But to many Americans, Mississippi is also home. And it is this paradox, with all its overtones of history and heartache, that Anthony Walton—whose parents escaped Mississippi for the relative civility of the Midwest—explores in this resonant and disquieting work of travel writing, history, and memoir.
Traveling from the Natchez Trace to the yawning cotton fields of the Delta and from plantation houses to air-conditioned shopping malls, Walton challenged us to see Mississippi's memories of comfort alongside its legacies of slavery and the Klan. He weaves in the stories of his family, as well as those of patricians and sharecroppers, redneck demagogues and martyred civil rights workers, novelists and bluesmen, black and white. Mississippi is a national saga in brilliant microcosm, splendidly written and profoundly moving.
At 30, Walton, a black man raised middle-class in Illinois, found himself questioning his identity and his heritage. So he took a journey both southerly and inward, through Mississippi, where his parents grew up and where American racism has been most entrenched. His tale meanders, combining travelogue, interviews, meditation, even his own poetry (awkwardly used to punctuate sections); one section consists of a chorus of voices, including those of Faulkner, Ellison and bluesman Robert Johnson. Certain moments resonate, such as Walton's visits to a historically preserved plantation and to the Ole Miss campus, full of Confederate memorabilia. He comes to appreciate the enormous effort of his ``taciturn, often remote'' father to give his son the privileges he himself never had. Walton's conclusion: we must learn the history of Mississippi to understand America's racial dilemma. His book is one of deeply felt inquiry, but it suffers from its poor organization. Photos.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Even better than I remembered
A terrific and touching effort by a devoted son to understand his heritage and the sacrifice of his parents through embracing the one symbol of all they struggled against. And I say that as a fellow member of the Mississippi diaspora, albeit a white one. It is a history or sorts, but really, aren't all of our lives are their own histories? To the AP student reviewer: Pay attention to what others who came before you said and did. Like Faulker wrote, "The past is never dead. It isn't even past."
Not nearly as good as Dennis Mitchell's book: A New History of Mississippi. Wish that was available here.
This book was hard to read and contains loads of boring, irrelevant facts. It's like reading a textbook. I'm an AP student, so I only read this book because it was required. 😴😴