Mississippi Law: The Long Crisis of Policing and Reform in America’s Black Countryside, 1890 to 1980


ACLS Fellowship Program




"Mississippi Law" tells a history of policing in rural America. For generations Black Mississippians fought against the tandem of vigilante and state violence, from lynch mob and riot squad. Activists recognized law enforcement as a key piece of the Jim Crow racial order, equal to segregation, vote suppression, and employment discrimination. Unlike these fixtures of American apartheid, policing emerged from the 1960s emboldened. The American South became a multiracial democracy under police rule. Mississippi Law tracks the process by which a state police force grew from an unpopular militia that subdued both nonviolent Black protest and violent white extremism. Over decades, Mississippi’s ruling class reformed law enforcement to benefit white property owners who replaced cotton planters.