History, Memory, and the Mississippi Freedom Movement

Monday, 28 August, 2017 - 15:00

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Nations, as Isabel Hofmeyr long ago observed, are forged, in part, from words. Many, perhaps most, of those words are in the nature of history, stories of the past that provide explanation, justification, a charter for present arrangements. What are the politics of this process? Who decides what stories will become part of a nation's historical patrimony, and what stories will be forgotten or distorted? What are the specific venues -- textbooks, monuments, movies, museums -- in which historical memory is constructed and contested? This essay explores these questions in an American context, by looking at competing accounts of the nature and meaning of the Civil Rights movement. It focuses on Mississippi, looking in particular at one of the most notorious crimes of the Civil Rights era, the Ku Klux Klan-orchestrated murder of three young activists, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, outside the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, in June, 1964.

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