Confederate Lane: Class, race, and ethnicity in the Mississippi Delta

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Abstract

In the Mississippi Delta of the United States, class developed as a racial relationship. Propertied blacks, immigrants, and old-stock poor whites destabilized an ideological discourse pursued by the planter elite. In this article, we examine shifting class processes through the history of poor white people who have settled in a largely white school district located in Washington County, Mississippi, and we consider how ethnicity, religion, and kinship have inflected those processes and political relations. We also trace the role of the federal government in altering social relations. Today in the Delta, black political elites maintain black racial solidarity as the key to electoral success. White elites, largely shorn of political power, are forming alliances with the emerging blacks. Working-class whites, having lost many privileges accrued during the segregationist period, find themselves adrift.

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