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Beyond the Book

392 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 14 halftones, 6 tables, 2 maps

John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

ISBN  978-1-4696-1900-2
Published: August 2014

Crossroads at Clarksdale

The Black Freedom Struggle in the Mississippi Delta after World War II

By Françoise N. Hamlin

Awards & Distinctions

2012 Berkshire Conference Best First Book Prize

2013 Lillian Smith Book Award

Weaving national narratives from stories of the daily lives and familiar places of local residents, Françoise Hamlin chronicles the slow struggle for black freedom through the history of Clarksdale, Mississippi. Hamlin paints a full picture of the town over fifty years, recognizing the accomplishments of its diverse African American community and strong NAACP branch, and examining the extreme brutality of entrenched power there. The Clarksdale story defies triumphant narratives of dramatic change, and presents instead a layered, contentious, untidy, and often disappointingly unresolved civil rights movement.

Following the black freedom struggle in Clarksdale from World War II through the first decade of the twenty-first century allows Hamlin to tell multiple, interwoven stories about the town's people, their choices, and the extent of political change. She shows how members of civil rights organizations--especially local leaders Vera Pigee and Aaron Henry--worked to challenge Jim Crow through fights against inequality, police brutality, segregation, and, later, economic injustice. With Clarksdale still at a crossroads today, Hamlin explores how to evaluate success when poverty and inequality persist.

About the Author

Françoise N. Hamlin is the Hans Rothfels Assistant Professor of History and Africana Studies at Brown University.


"Exhaustively researched, this book richly details the black struggle for freedom in the Mississippi Delta. . . . Recommended. All academic levels/libraries."

"A beautifully written book, strong in its ability to capture the different organizing strategies pursued in one community. . . . A major contribution to civil rights historiography."
--Journal of American History

“Adds much to the story of civil rights in Clarksdale and beyond . . . [and] provides an incredibly rich account of race, class, gender, generational, and organizational tensions within the civil rights movement.”
--Journal of Southern History

“[A] must read text for courses on US history, but also may interest general audiences.”
--History: Reviews of New Books

Crossroads at Clarksdale offers an important understanding of the strengths and limitations of the black freedom movement.”
--American Historical Review

“[This book] is a much-needed additive to the already-extant literature on the Mississippi civil rights movement, not only for its artful prose, but also because it sets a high standard for future researchers, pushing scholars to expand their source base and periodization. Hamlin’s book should be widely read.”
--The Historian

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