Introduced in 1964, James Silver's image of Mississippi as "the closed society" framed the state's crisis of white racism in terms of a "reign of intimidation" allowing an engrossed American public to draw parallels with another closed society, the Soviet Union. Crespino notes the reactions of folk revivalist Phil Ochs and novelist Walker Percy, and suggests the limits of the closed society metaphor.
"Mississippi as Metaphor State, Region, and Nation in Historical Imagination," a presentation by Joseph Crespino
Published on October 23, 2006
Mississippi emerged as an iconic space for the struggle over the meaning of democracy and equality in the South and in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. Examining three metaphors widely used in those years, Professor Joseph Crespino argues that, as "the South on steroids," Mississippi became as much a contentious, imagined space as a real location for addressing national problems of white racism. The Mississippi of metaphor continues to affect, and to limit, how the South and the nation pursue social reform and equality.