At a time of new controversy over reading material used in Mississippi public schools, Charles W. Eagles’ latest book dealing with an epic battle over a state history textbook in the 1970s will be the subject of an Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics program next Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 5:30 p.m.
Eagles, who recently retired after more than three decades as a history professor at Ole Miss, will talk about “Civil Rights Culture Wars” with K.B. Melear, a professor in the school’s education department. The book, published earlier this year by the University of North Carolina Press, deals with a struggle with the politically controlled state textbook commission to win approval for a new history textbook that covered the civil rights movement, poverty and issues confronting women, workers and native Americans in Mississippi. The issues had been ignored by textbooks in use in the state.
In 1974, “Mississippi: Conflict and Change,” edited and written by James W. Loewen and Charles Sallis, challenged the textbook orthodoxy with modern accounts of the state’s troubled history. Its rejection by the textbook commission set off a long battle in federal court to gain approval for its use in public schools. In many ways, the fight anticipated the “culture wars” that continue today.
An investigative Hechinger Report, published this month and written by Sierra Mannie, a journalism student at Ole Miss who graduated in 2016 with a degree in classics, charges that most school districts in the state “still use textbooks that give local civil rights milestones short shrift.”
Eagles’ book was hailed by Charles Bolton, author of “William F. Winter and the New Mississippi: A Biography.” Eagles’ “fascinating account,” Bolton said, is the first to really tell the story. “Like the textbook itself, ‘Civil Rights Culture Wars’ significantly broadens our understanding of Mississippi history.”
Eagles was featured in an Overby Center program eight years ago following publication of his history of the 1962 integration crisis at Ole Miss, “The Price of Defiance.”
The event will be held in the Overby Auditorium on the Ole Miss campus, and like all of the Overby Center programs, it is free and open to the public.
Story courtesy of the Overby Center.
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