Community And (Dis)Order In Antebellum Mississippi: Identity And Violence In The Making Of A Slave Society
In the century following the Civil War, the state of Mississippi became infamous as a region defined by its open violence and continuous efforts to impose order and control. With the state's Constitution, passed in 1890, Mississippi took the lead in efforts to control the South's Black population politically, socially, and economically. The system of sharecropping tied generations to the land, and the deaths and destruction following Mississippi's Great Flood of 1927 demonstrated that the work produced held more value to Mississippi's economic and political elites than the workers' lives. Whether at the notorious Parchman State Penitentiary or in rural Sunflower County holding the final line of defense in the face of the nation's push to end Segregation and Jim Crow, Mississippi proudly announced its willingness to violently defend its "way of life." The roots of such a "culture of violence" can be found in eras predating the Civil War and Reconstruction. This project examines the construction and evolution of Mississippi's society during the antebellum era of slavery and demonstrates the ways in which ideas of "self" and "other" led to the formation of "communities" among both free and enslaved people in the state. These fluid definitions of identity served as justifications for actions taken by individuals and groups in defense of shared values and mores, as well as in efforts to disrupt various mechanisms of control. By focusing on separate incidents of extreme violence occurring during the summer of 1835 (one victimizing white "outsiders" and the other including both white and black targets), this project demonstrates the centrality of coercive force in efforts to establish and maintain order within the region as well as the ways in which violence and fear served to disrupt such efforts. While slavery rests at the center of this developing society, violence and fear flowed in both directions, to and from slavery, shaping both the institution and the broader society of Mississippi in which it developed. It is this mixture of identity and coercive violence that helps to explain what made Mississippi "Mississippi."
Antebellum Mississippi, Slavery; Violence and Control, Order; Community and Identity
Harris Jr,Robert L.; Chang,Derek S.
Ph.D. of History
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis