In October 2005, less than two months after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to the Gulf Coast and as hundreds of thousands of Mississippians remained homeless, the Mississippi state legislature assembled a special session. At the urging of Harrah’s Entertainment and other major players in the gaming industry, the state rushed through legislation that permitted the construction of inland mega-resorts, deemed of critical importance for the state’s recovery.
I was in second grade in Kentucky when my friend Bobby invited me to spend Friday night with him and go fish a farm pond the next morning. His father, a long haul truck driver, was off work for the weekend and drove us some thirty miles out of town where we baited simple bream hooks with red worms and carefully watched our white and red bobbers, in youthful hope of success.
In recent years, Mississippi has become a sort of totem for historians of the black freedom struggle, much as it was for the civil rights workers of the early-to-mid-1960s. Movement supporters once believed that if unregenerate Mississippi, the ultimate "closed society," could be brought to heel then black freedom in the United States was surely just down the road apiece. Similarly, many Movement scholars have focused on the Magnolia State in the belief that unraveling the complexities of the freedom struggle there is important, not just as a worthy end in itself, but as a means to understand the very nature of the southern civil rights struggle.