Mississippi: A Documentary History

By Bradley G. Bond | Go to book overview

Chapter 14
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

In 1964, after having successfully campaigned as the right man to head the massive resistance movement from the governor's mansion, Governor Paul B. Johnson, Jr. delivered an inaugural address that shocked many Mississippians—black and white. He argued that the days of resisting civil rights reform were over and that Mississippi would focus its energy on building a better standard of living for all citizens. The timing of his inaugural address coincided with the start of Federal programs designed to reward Mississippi financially for desegregating its schools. His address also preceded Freedom Summer, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which collectively caused a revolution in Mississippi. By the close of his term in office, black Mississippians were voting in large numbers and placing African Americans in political offices. In 1969, a few months after Johnson left the governor's office, the Federal courts ordered Mississippi schools to integrate immediately. At long last, the modern Civil Rights Movement had destroyed Jim Crow. While Johnson's contribution to the Civil Rights Movement was minimal, and arguably negative, his emphasis on economic progress rather than a defense of old notions of the racial ordering of society accurately predicted the path that Mississippi would take over the next decades.

Johnson's address symbolized the start of a new day in Mississippi history. Once the state and white Mississippians ceased overtly to resist civil rights

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