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Stripper in Wonderland Poems

Posted on: November 15th, 2017 by

Wonderland bookBy Derrick Harriell, assistant professor of English and African American Studies and director of the Master of Fine Arts English program at the University of Mississippi


The percussive poems of Stripper in Wonderland move from birth to death, funk to hip-hop, and racism to religion as Derrick Harriell explores the life of a modern black man transplanted from the American Midwest to the Deep South.

Harriell summons the ghosts of the past as he deals with the realities of the present. He carefully winds images and words together to produce powerful, often graphic, poems that inform our view of one another as they punch through our assumptions.

Praise for Stripper in Wonderland

“There’s a smell in the strip club—bottom-shelf liquor cut through with electric current. There’s a sound—a tangle of mumbled glee and regret, hissed falsehoods, souring sweat, and the dull ache of push-buttoned drum. The whole of it sticks to your hands and the soles of your feet. The strip club is where the large life is dimly lived. In these revelatory stanzas, the poet puts us squarely on the business side of the door to witness the unrelenting strut of glitter and manufactured glee. And brilliantly, as these stanzas move out past the world he’s so deftly conjured, a glitter drifts down over it all. The poet’s job is to make us remember the loud lies pretty things tell. Here, Derrick Harriell does his job.”—Patricia Smith, author of Gotta Go, Gotta Flow

“It’s apt that Derrick Harriell’s melodious collection of poems, Stripper in Wonderland, begins with a declaration of love from T-Pain. Like the Auto-Tuned crooner, these poems are steeped in heady music—+of molly and alcohol-driven nights, of lost and future loves, of making it rain and where the paper comes from. Harriell writes with the kind of emotional and lyric intensity of a slow jam and he uses that lyricism to untangle and dismantle the performances of sexuality, gender, and addiction that surround us all.”—Adrian Matejka, author of The Big Smoke

“Derrick Harriell wrestles with love, fatherhood, the American Southland, and the brittled, tender bruises of black masculinity in this pimp-walked odyssey of a book. With a roll of dollar bills in one hand, a poem in the other, and his mouth fixed for forgiveness against terrible odds, Harriell’s vision shines through like a strobe light, bringing us flashes of light before reminding us how to live through the dark.”—Tyehimba Jess, author of leadbelly and Olio

Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Derrick Harriell’s poems have appeared in various literary journals, anthologies, and he is the author of two previous poetry collections. Harriell also received the 2014 Poetry Award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters.

From Slave Ship to Supermax: Mass Incarceration, Prisoner Abuse, and the New Neo-Slave Novel

Posted on: November 15th, 2017 by

From Slave Ship to SupermaxBy Patrick Elliot Alexander, assistant professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi and co-founder of the University of Mississippi Prison-to-College Pipeline Program at Parchman/Mississippi State Penitentiary


“Patrick Alexander adds to the canon of critical carceral studies with this evocative exploration of African American literature and prison narratives as intersectional discourses of power, resistance, and cultural revelation. From Slave Ship to Supermax connects enslavement and mass imprisonment as points that mirror each other, bookends of a continuum of state-sanctioned control over the black body. Alexander takes his readers into the prison classroom, complete with its terrors, its dreams, and its illuminations. This compelling and powerful work situates Alexander as a scholar and an activist.”
Sheila Smith McKoy, Chair of the Department of English at Kennesaw State University, author of When Whites Riot: Writing Race and Violence in American and South African Cultures, and editor of The Elizabeth Keckley Reader, volumes 1 and 2

In his cogent and groundbreaking book, From Slave Ship to Supermax, Patrick Elliot Alexander argues that the disciplinary logic and violence of slavery haunt depictions of the contemporary U.S. prison in late twentieth-century Black fiction. Alexander links representations of prison life in James Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk to his engagements with imprisoned intellectuals like George Jackson, who exposed historical continuities between slavery and mass incarceration. Likewise, Alexander reveals how Toni Morrison’s Beloved was informed by Angela Y. Davis’s jail writings on slavery-reminiscent practices in contemporary women’s facilities. Alexander also examines recurring associations between slave ships and prisons in Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage, and connects slavery’s logic of racialized premature death to scenes of death row imprisonment in Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying.

Alexander ultimately makes the case that contemporary Black novelists depict racial terror as a centuries-spanning social control practice that structured carceral life on slave ships and slave plantations-and that mass-produces prisoners and prisoner abuse in post-Civil Rights America. These authors expand free society’s view of torment confronted and combated in the prison industrial complex, where discriminatory laws and the institutionalization of secrecy have reinstated slavery’s system of dehumanization.


“The haunting of social life by transatlantic slavery is never far from sight or sound in U.S. cultural life. In From Slave Ship to Supermax , Patrick Elliot Alexander traces the afterlife of black journeys across the Atlantic in and through the carceral state. Reading Baldwin, Morrison, Johnson, and Gaines, Alexander reminds us, with searing ethical commitment and intellectual acumen, that forgetting how we came to be here is both ill advised and dangerous. This book will spark a different kind of conversation about work on the prison-industrial complex.”
Sharon Patricia Holland, Townsend Ludington Distinguished Term Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and author of The Erotic Life of Racism and Raising the Dead: Readings of Death and (Black) Subjectivity

From Slave Ship to Supermax presents a highly accessible set of ideas to engage Black creative works beyond the literary realm. This work contributes a fresh perspective to the emerging discourses of U.S. and global carceral studies.”
Dylan Rodríguez, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside, and author of Forced Passages: Imprisoned Radical Intellectuals and the U.S. Prison Regime and Suspended Apocalypse: White Supremacy, Genocide, and the Filipino Condition

Mavericks, Money, and Men: The AFL, Black Players, and the Evolution of Modern Football

Posted on: May 3rd, 2016 by

Mavericks bookBy Charles K. Ross, professor of history and director of African American Studies
Temple University Press, 2016

The American Football League, established in 1960, was innovative both in its commitment to finding talented, overlooked players—particularly those who played for historically black colleges and universities—and in the decision by team owners to share television revenues.

In Mavericks, Money and Men, football historian Charles Ross chronicles the AFL’s key events, including Buck Buchanan becoming the first overall draft pick in 1963, and the 1965 boycott led by black players who refused to play in the AFL-All Star game after experiencing blatant racism. He also recounts how the success of the AFL forced a merger with the NFL in 1969, which arguably facilitated the evolution of modern professional football.

Ross shows how the league, originally created as a challenge to the dominance of the NFL, pressured for and ultimately accelerated the racial integration of pro football and also allowed the sport to adapt to how African Americans were themselves changing the game.


“Although other writers have explored the history of the American Football League, Mavericks, Money, and Men is the most extensive treatment of the league to date. Linking the history of the AFL with a number of key developments in American society and culture, Ross skillfully synthesizes an array of personal memoirs with a wide range of compelling anecdotes. Archival materials also illuminate the internal workings of the AFL. Mavericks, Money, and Men is a valuable narrative history that captures key moments in the development of the nation’s most popular sport.”
—Gregory Kaliss, author of Men’s College Athletics and the Politics of Racial Equality

“[T]he emergence of the American Football League (AFL) created an excitement unmatched in professional sports…. Ross focuses on the league’s recruitment of black players from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) such as Grambling State, Florida A&M, and North Carolina Central…. [Ross] aptly documents the evolution of the current NFL and how the integration of professional football paralleled the social integration of American life. VERDICT An important chapter in U.S. racial history of the 1960s. Recommended for all collections.”
—Library Journal

Dr. Ross is the author of Outside the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League (NYU Press, 2001) and the editor of Race and Sport: The Struggle for Equality On and Off the Field (University Press of Mississippi). 

New Museum Collection Features Poetry and Photos

Posted on: March 3rd, 2016 by
Derrick Harriell, assistant professor of English and African American Studies

Derrick Harriell, assistant professor of English and African American Studies

Reading at gallery to feature contributing poets, photographer


The newest exhibit at the University of Mississippi Museum is a collaboration of poetry and photography inspired by Langston Hughes’ award-winning poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” and the museum is hosting a special reading Thursday (March 3) to celebrate it.

“Of Rivers: Photography by Young Suh, Poetry edited by Chiyuma Elliott and Katie Peterson” features 11 poems accompanied by photographs that interpret them. It runs through June 25 in the museum’s Lower Skipwith Gallery.

The museum is partnering with the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and its 23rd Oxford Conference for the Book, for a poetry reading at 3:30 p.m. Thursday (March 3) in the gallery. Many of the poets who contributed to “Of Rivers,” including Jericho Brown, Chiyuma Elliott, Derrick Harriell, assistant professor of English and African American Studies, and Katie Peterson, as well as photographer Young Suh, will participate in the reading, which is free and open to the public.

The reading will be followed by an opening reception from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

“Almost 100 years after it was written, Hughes’ ‘The Negro Speaks of Rivers’ still inspires writers to think about how to live and what to do,” said Rebecca Phillips, the museum’s coordinator for membership, exhibits and communication. “‘Of Rivers’ invites the viewer to be part of that conversation. It invites them to discover and contemplate – and hopefully also delight in – some of the new creative work that responds to this famous and important poem.

The exhibit started when organizers asked eight poets of differing styles and sensibilities to write something in response to Hughes’s 1921 poem. The participating poets are F. Douglas Brown, of Los Angeles; Jericho Brown, of Atlanta; Katie Ford, of Los Angeles; Rachel Eliza Griffiths, of Brooklyn, New York; Derrick Harriell, of Oxford; Dong Li, of Nanjing, China and Stuttgart, Germany; Sandra Lim, of Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Michael C. Peterson, of Cincinnati.

Suh, of Cerrito, California, was asked to visually respond to all the poems.

“What you experience in the gallery is the result of this collaboration: a literary and visual call and response,” Phillips said.

Because the artists featured in the exhibit can take for granted that readers and viewers know the relationship with the Hughes poem exists, some of their work foregoes explicit signals of connection, she said.

“Most of the poems and photographs have some things in common: they are specific, personal and idiosyncratic, not magisterial, or mythic or universal. These creative responses to Hughes focus on the unruly facts of the world. They are shape-shifting – sometimes autobiographical – narratives that begin with a big problem and tend to resist closure.”

The University Museum, at the intersection of University Avenue and Fifth Street, is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information on upcoming exhibitions and events, visit and follow the museum on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

UM Students, Staff Lead Community MLK Day of Service Events

Posted on: January 15th, 2016 by

Volunteers gathering to conduct food drive and promote wellness


Donald Cole photo by Robert Jordan/ UM Communications

Donald Cole photo by Robert Jordan/ UM Communications

University of Mississippi students and staff will be spearheading efforts to promote healthy lifestyles in Lafayette County and Oxford during 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances.

The opening ceremony for the Lafayette-Oxford-University MLK Day of Service begins at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 18 at the Oxford Activity Center. Program participants include Oxford Mayor George “Pat” Patterson and Lafayette County Board of Supervisors President Jeff Busby. Donald Cole, assistant provost, special assistant to the UM chancellor for multicultural affairs and associate professor mathematics, will deliver the keynote address.

Afterward, awards will be presented to four outstanding LOU volunteers in two categories. Community member recipients are Patrick Alexander and Jacqueline Certion, both of Oxford; and Judith Thompson of Abbeville. Faith Meyer of Oxford is the student recipient.

“It is exciting that University of Mississippi students and staff are choosing to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Kacey Schaum, assistant dean of students for leadership and involvement. “Volunteering builds communities and strengthens relationships. To have our students take opportunities to participate in endeavors like these is amazing.”

Other activities scheduled are:

Jan. 4-15 – a letter-of-appreciation writing campaign for civil rights leaders John Perkins and Charles Evers. Also, “I Have a Dream” art project. Participating schools include Oxford-University School and Lafayette High School.
Jan. 16 – Delta Service Corps VISTA is sponsoring a canned goods drive for the UM Food Bank, Pantry and Love Packs. Drop-offs may be made between noon and 4 p.m. at CVS, Larson’s Cash Saver and Walgreen’s.
Jan. 18 – Ole Miss athletics/UPD-sponsored “Dream Team” 5-K wellness walk/fun run. The event begins at 10:30 a.m. at the Oxford Activity Center. The first 50 participants to register get free T-shirts.
Jan. 18 – Volunteer projects at the Veterans Home in Oxford.
Jan. 18 – Sorting of food collected during the food drive.

“Learning the larger history surrounding civil rights and MLK is important, but we see a need to educate our students about living leaders who made great movements right here in Mississippi,” said Sara Baker, co-coordinator of the letter-writing campaign. “We hope to give proper gratitude to local leaders. We hope to educate students on the civil rights movement here in Mississippi and give them a local, current perspective about the continuous issue.”

Community participation is crucial to the success of the service observance, said Sarah Ball, Volunteer Oxford director.

“This national day of service honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and commitment to transforming our nation through service to others,” Ball said. “The LOU MLK Day of Service offers community members a chance to engage in a variety of volunteer opportunities that are designed to give back to the community.”

Patrick Elliot Alexander, assistant professor of English and African American Studies.

Patrick Elliot Alexander, assistant professor of English and African American Studies.

An assistant professor of English and African American Studies at UM, Alexander created a Prison-to-College Pipeline Program for inmates at Parchman Penitentiary. He is also volunteers with the Rethinking Mass Incarceration in the South Conference.

Thompson is a UM assistant professor of teacher education. A lifelong volunteer, she has been involved with the Boys and Girls Club, CREATE Foundation, Leap Frog, Lafayette County School Board and other groups. She is chair of the LOU Excel by 5 Steering Committee, a community-based project that strives to improve the quality of life for children ages 5 and younger.

A senior academic adviser for the UM FASTrack Program, Certion started a free summer program for tutoring students in math and reading. She is also involved in the Boys and Girls Club, Sigma Gamma Rho sorority and other organizations.

A sophomore from Austin, Texas, Meyer is involved in Kappa Delta sorority at UM. She chaired its Personal presence, Attitude, Communications skills and Enlarging our world committee and worked with Prevent Child Abuse America and the Girl Scouts.

For more information about LOU MLK Day of Service events, contact Ball at or Schaum at

The West African Slave Plantation: A Case Study

Posted on: December 10th, 2015 by

By Bashir Salau, associate professor of history at the University of Mississippi
Palgrave/MacMillan (2011)

The West African Slave PlantationThe literature on Atlantic slavery is rich with accounts of plantation complexes in the Americas, but to date none have been produced for West Africa. In this valuable study, Mohammed Bashir Salau helps to address this lacunae by looking at the plantation operations at Fanisau in Hausaland, and in the process provides an innovative look at one piece of the historically significant Sokoto Caliphate. The case study calls into question the assumption that servile institutions in West Africa were “serf villages” and not “slave plantations,” and argues that manumission was less common, at least in the Caliphate, than generally believed. Also, it provides evidence on the key role of the emir of Kano (Abbas) and various merchants in the transition to groundnut cultivation and the significant use of slave labor by large estate holders in the early twentieth century.


“Salau’s study of a plantation complex in the Sokoto caliphate fills an important gap in the global studies of slavery and plantation systems. It is an exciting exploration into a system of agricultural production, the plantation, that has not been given sufficient consideration in African history; nor have we had sufficient African case studies to allow useful comparative studies with New World plantations. It uses a rich trove of oral histories, collected from among people who were either themselves slaves or who supervised slaves, to document the ways that African plantations were managed and slaves controlled and resisted. This is a richly textured study that is a major contribution to our understanding of plantations as economic and social systems and the agency of slaves who, in this case, were drawn into the cash crop economy of a West African colony.”
—Carolyn Brown, Professor, Department of History, Rutgers University

“This book is an important contribution to knowledge. By and large, Africanists do not have the data to write the kind of study which is available for village and plantation studies in the West Indies or the United States. Salau has, however, an exceptional source consisting of a large fund of oral interviews and a significant number of written sources. It makes it possible for him to provide a detailed account of how a rural plantation in Hausaland operated. I do not know of any other study which details the daily life of the slave economy in Africa and makes clear how the court interfaced with the rural economy. Such village studies are crucial for any kind of comparative analysis, and though there are other village studies, none give such an accurate picture of life on a slave plantation.”
—Martin Klein, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, University of Toronto

Historian’s Grant Preserves Rare Documents

Posted on: December 10th, 2015 by


 Bashir Salau, associate professor of history

Bashir Salau, associate professor of history

When carefully studied, historic discoveries sometimes can yield useful insights into modern societal problems. But without access to the artifacts from past eras and cultures, the valuable lessons they teach may be lost.

In efforts to preserve archival holdings related to northern Nigeria, a University of Mississippi historian is leading a service project that will both promote further academic research and provide the public with access to rare documents from the region’s pre-colonial era.

Bashir Salau, associate professor of history, heads the Northern Nigeria: Pre-colonial documents preservation scheme. Using a grant awarded by the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme and sponsored by the Arcadia fund, Salau has spent time in the region copying the materials, which will be kept secure in National Archives Kaduna as well as the British Library and other suitable repositories.

“The documents targeted by this project are stored in the National Archives Kaduna,” Salau said. “I visited this archive for the first time in the late 1980s while working on my B.A research essay on the history of the textile industry in the Kaduna region of northern Nigeria. I noticed that many records in the archive in question are in deplorable conditions.”

Since completing his essay, Salau has returned to Kaduna several times and understands that most of the materials are in such bad state because of wear and tear from repeated use and other factors. Targeted antiquities to be photographed include Arabic and Hausa materials from the late 18th century to the British colonial conquest, 1897-1903. Early colonial papers ranging from 1897 to around 1920 are also included.

“The materials are subject to exceptional vulnerability because of their considerable overuse by students and researchers,” Salau said. “This project seeks to digitally copy the materials in line with the standards endorsed by the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme so as to enhance public access to these remarkable documents.”

The approximately $15,500 awarded for the three-month project covers the costs of Salau’s travels, laptops and digital cameras for use by his team, compensation for five research assistants/consultants engaged in copying materials and other miscellaneous expenses.

UM administrators expressed great enthusiasm over Salau’s work.

“The award of a prestigious British Library Endangered Archives Programme grant for Dr. Salau’s international scholarship is another validation of his important work,” said Glenn Hopkins, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.


Palgrave/MacMillan Press (2011)

Joseph Ward, associate professor and chair of history, is particularly supportive of his colleague’s endeavors.

“Given our state’s strong historical connection to West Africa, this is a wonderful opportunity for us to partner with Nigeria through Dr. Salau’s preservation efforts,” Ward said. “In so doing, we will help Nigerians reconnect with their past as well as assist American students in learning more about African history.”

The materials form an important part of human culture and heritage, and are of value to anyone interested in the unique culture and history of the African past.

“The unique documents in Hausa and Arabic are important because they document the social, economic and political history of the Sokoto Calipate, which was the largest 19th century Islamic empire in West Africa,” Salau said. “Also contained within these materials are the early years of British colonial rule in northern Nigeria, when many features of Caliphate economy and society were researched by colonial officials.”

The materials are also valuable because they detail colonial policy formation and demonstrate the extent to which officials understood Islam, slavery and unfree labor in what had been the Sokoto Caliphate, he said. The British colonists tried to shape colonial northern Nigeria through reform of Caliphate institutions, a technique used successfully during slavery in the pre-Civil War United States.

“The materials are of value to historians of Africa in general, because such resources deal with labor, culture, intellectual history and inter-group relations in the African pre-colonial era. Such documentation is relatively scarce,” Salau said.

A graduate of York University in Canada, Salau specializes in African and African diaspora history. He teaches “Introduction to African history,” “The history of Africa since 1800,” courses on Islam in Africa and the history of slavery in Africa. His research explores the history of slavery in 19th and early 20th century West Africa, specifically the use of slaves on plantations.

VIDEO: Dr. Salau discusses his latest book, The West African Slave Plantation

Adam Gussow Finds Many Ways to Teach Blues Culture

Posted on: December 10th, 2015 by

Professor, music scholar and professional musician blends life experience with academic expertise


Adam Gussow

Adam Gussow

In the mastering room at the Dial Back Sound Recording Studio, the struggles of creation reverberate from the egg crate walls.

Those walls were engineered to deliver pure sounds to inspire musicians and remind them of reasons they came together and wrote songs, or why guitar riffs invoke emotions or why, for a solitary moment, the blues could be understood from the whistle of a harmonica.

Grooving through that mastering room was the duo Satan and Adam’s first studio session in 1990. It featured melodies developed on the streets of Harlem from two different cultures that combined to create a unified sound. The blues duo Satan and Adam still exists, although in a lesser capacity than the late 1980s and early ’90s.

More than 20 years later, Adam, or Adam Gussow, is an associate professor of English and Southern studies at the University of Mississippi.

His unusual blend of expertise as professional blues musician and scholar of blues culture is why he is such a natural fit at UM. The New York native is not a blues discographer; rather, a scholar of blues culture and a scholar of blues literature.

“I’m fascinated by the way the blues is about the tension between old times and modernity,” Gussow said. “My own approach to the blues was shaped by the fact that I played with an unusual musician (Sterling Magee, aka Mr. Satan).”

His life experience has made him comfortable in any environment. His self-appointed charge, to maintain an honest dialogue about things such as race, encourages students to explore culture and differences with the hope they take something more out of it.

“I think college classrooms are one of the few places in our society where we can come together as a group of people and explore the more challenging aspects of what it means to be who we are,” Gussow said.

One of his current teaching ventures is a class called “Freedom Summer 1964: Mississippi’s Civil Rights Watershed.” The course explores Mississippi’s Freedom Summer experience and the civil rights movement through text, histories, memoirs, fiction, film and song.

Opening the minds of students in a university classroom is not the only place to hear one of Gussow’s lessons. He remains a blues musician. He has many YouTube videos, in which he not only teaches blues harmonica to anyone in the world via the Internet, but he also teaches the culture behind the music. Gussow acts as a professor to all who know his name and want to share in his vast knowledge.

“If you are willing to be uncomfortable and authentic, you might end up, at the end of the process, less afraid and have more clarity about how you actually fit into the world, and how people around you are seeing themselves,” Gussow said.

Furthermore, his solo album, “Kick and Stomp,” released in 2010 and produced in Oxford, was recently picked up by United Kingdom recording studio Right Recordings. The label plans to distribute it throughout the UK and Europe.

So Gussow may get another chance to tour, and at 55 years old, he could become Britain’s latest “American Invasion.”

The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss

Posted on: December 10th, 2015 by

April 25, 2009 | By UM Communications Staff

CharlesEaglesbookMany facts about the integration of the University of Mississippi have remained unknown to the public for more than 45 years. That’s because key details of the story, including James Meredith’s daily life as a student, have been locked away in file cabinets and unexplored archives.

That is, until now.

With his new book, “The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss” (University of North Carolina Press), UM history professor Charles Eagles provides an unprecedented look at the circumstances and events leading up to that fateful day in October 1962, when Meredith became the university’s first black student.

“It is the most important event in the history of the university,” said Eagles, UM’s William Winter Professor of History. “Every book on the civil rights movement or the Kennedy administration discusses it.”

In “Price of Defiance,” Eagles delves into Meredith’s experience as a student, devoting two chapters to the topic. How detailed? For starters, Meredith lived in a corner apartment of Baxter Hall. “It was at the very edge of campus,” Eagles said. “Part of that was for his own security, though.”

Syndicated Mississippi columnist Bill Minor, who reported on the state during those tumultuous times, wrote in a recent column: “None of the many books produced since the 1962 Ole Miss-Meredith crisis paints, as Eagles does, the intricate portrait of who James Howard Meredith really was. His work provides a perspective only a dedicated historian can do.”

Former Gov. William Winter became a champion of moderation in resolving Mississippi’s racial issues during the 1950s and 1960s, a legacy that lives on at UM’s William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. As an eyewitness to the turbulence during those years, Winter hails “Price of Defiance” as a definitive account of Meredith’s admission.

“If one is seeking a single book that details most vividly the fanatical intensity of the struggle to maintain racial segregation in the South, this is that volume,” Winter said. “It is a remarkable and well-researched chronicle of the historical, political and social forces that lay behind the violent confrontation at Ole Miss.”

Eagles’ latest work is certainly not the first book about UM’s integration. What sets it apart is that in his meticulous research dating back more than 15 years, Eagles uncovered sources and documents that revealed untold aspects of the story. From the beginning, he benefited from unprecedented access to university files, made available by former UM Provost and English Professor Gerald Walton. The story Eagles discovered became increasingly large and complex.

“One strand would raise questions that caused me to look at other issues,” Eagles said. “It became a huge puzzle, and I had to figure out how it all fit together.”

In sorting out the pieces, Eagles uncovered how UM became of symbol of racial segregation for the entire state.

“I learned the power of white supremacy in Mississippi in the 1950s and 1960s; the public pressure on the institution to maintain segregation was tremendous,” Eagles said. “The uprising was a culmination of a long line of controversies dealing with race, politics and the university that had been building for more than a decade.”


2010 Lillian Smith Book Award, Southern Regional Council
2010 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Nonfiction
2009 Mississippi Humanities Council Special Recognition Award
2010 McLemore Prize, Mississippi Historical Society

Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition

Posted on: December 10th, 2015 by

By Adam Gussow, associate professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi
University Of Chicago Press, 2001


He is the author of Mister Satan’s Apprentice: A Blues Memoir and has been a professional blues harmonica player for many years, touring widely in the 1990s as part of the Harlem-based duo Satan and Adam.

Winner of the 2004 C. Hugh Holman Award from the Society for the Study of Southern Literature.

Seems Like Murder Here offers a revealing new account of the blues tradition. Far from mere laments about lost loves and hard times, the blues emerge in this provocative study as vital responses to spectacle lynchings and the violent realities of African American life in the Jim Crow South. With brilliant interpretations of both classic songs and literary works, from the autobiographies of W. C. Handy, David Honeyboy Edwards, and B. B. King to the poetry of Langston Hughes and the novels of Zora Neale Hurston, Seems Like Murder Here will transform our understanding of the blues and its enduring power.