Winner of the Zócalo Public Square Book Prize
Benjamin L. Hooks Award Finalist
“An insightful, powerful, and moving book.”
—Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice
“Sturkey’s clear-eyed and meticulous book pulls off a delicate balancing act. While depicting the terrors of Jim Crow, he also shows how Hattiesburg’s black residents, forced to forge their own communal institutions, laid the organizational groundwork for the civil rights movement.”
—New York Times
If you really want to understand Jim Crow—what it was and how African Americans rose up to defeat it—you should start by visiting Mobile Street in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the heart of the historic black downtown. There you can still see remnants of the shops and churches where, amid the violence and humiliation of segregation, men and women gathered to build a remarkable community. Hattiesburg takes us into the heart of this divided town and deep into the lives of families on both sides of the racial divide to show how the fabric of their existence was shaped by the changing fortunes of the Jim Crow South.
“Sturkey’s magnificent portrait reminds us that Mississippi is no anachronism. It is the dark heart of American modernity.”
—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk
“When they are at their best, historians craft powerful, compelling, often genre-changing pieces of history…William Sturkey is one of those historians…A brilliant, poignant work.”
—Charles W. McKinney, Jr., Journal of African American History
Illuminating… Sturkey’s clear-eyed and meticulous book pulls off a delicate balancing act. While depicting the terrors of Jim Crow, he also shows how Hattiesburg’s black residents, forced to forge their own communal institutions, laid the organizational groundwork for the civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s.
Hattiesburg is where racial democracy meets white supremacy, where technology meets nature, where old slavery money meets the indebted sharecropper, where imagination meets the unimaginable, where the ballot meets the bullet. Sturkey’s magnificent portrait reminds us that Mississippi is no anachronism. It is the dark heart of American modernity.
Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was the quintessential New South city, built on the promise of quick cash and persistent oppression. In this brilliantly braided history, William Sturkey shows how African Americans made it into a place of opportunity, community, resilience, and rebellion. Hattiesburg is an insightful, powerful, and moving book.
Sturkey’s beautifully written portrait of Hattiesburg, Mississippi—from its founding after the Civil War through the emergence of the modern civil rights movement—offers a fresh history of Jim Crow’s development and decline, unlike any other I have read. Sturkey features people with agency, acting to shape their lives and improve their community, while showing how these individuals were acting within the context of broad economic trends related to war, depression, migration, and more. A wonderfully compelling book.
In this masterful biography of an American place, Sturkey compels us to look anew at the world made by white supremacy and remade by the black freedom struggle. Hattiesburg is a timely reminder of how much remains to be said about our shared, segregated past, and few have said more in a single book than this author. This bold, imaginative book is essential reading for anyone seeking to fathom Jim Crow’s rise, fall, and resilience—in Mississippi and well beyond.
Hattiesburg is not connected in the popular mind with civil rights history in the way of Selma and Montgomery, but Sturkey’s vibrant history makes a strong case that, to understand how the civil rights movement emerged, it’s essential to spend time there.
When they are at their best, historians craft powerful, compelling, often genre-changing pieces of history…William Sturkey is one of those historians…A brilliant, poignant work of history…Shows us—in a powerful way—the utility of taking a longer, more systematic view of the Jim Crow period.
Sturkey provides a moving account of the evil of white supremacy.
- 2020, Winner of the Zócalo Public Square Book Prize
- 456 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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