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Mississippi Historical Society

The Mississippi Historical Society was organized in Jackson on November 9, 1858, under the scholarly leadership of B.L.C. Wailes, but survived less than two years. Reorganization efforts, beginning in 1890, bore fruit eight years later at the University of Mississippi when the Society issued fourteen volumes of the Mississippi Historical Society Publications under the editorship of Franklin L. Riley, professor of history at the university.

In 1902 the Society led in the creation of the Department of Archives and History, and the executive committee of the Society’s board of directors became the first board of trustees of the department. The Journal of Mississippi History, a scholarly publication, was begun in 1939 and has been published jointly since then by the Society and the Department of Archives and History.

In 1964 the Mississippi Historical Society brought back into print J.F.H. Claiborne’s Mississippi as a Province, Territory, and State, long a collector’s item. Since the publication of that classic, the Society has taken an active role in producing significant books on the history of the state; in fact, the Society has produced at least one major book in each decade.

In 1973 the Society, in cooperation with the Department of Archives and History, the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, and the University and College Press, published the first comprehensive history of Mississippi in fifty years, a two-volume set entitled A History of Mississippi, edited by R.A. McLemore.

In 1987 the Society sponsored the first popular illustrated history of this state, Mississippi: An Illustrated History, written by Edward Akin and published by Windsor Publishing Company. The book was updated in 2003 by Charles Bolton, history professor at the University of Southern Mississippi who has since become chair of the history department at the University of North Carolina.

In 1992, the Society announced the establishment of a major book series spanning the history of Mississippi. Sixteen books, each covering an important subject or era, will be published. The books will be written for a broad audience of scholars, teachers, students, and interested general readers. Seven books have been published in the series: Art in Mississippi, 1720-1980, by Patti Carr Black, was published in November 1998; Religion in Mississippi by Randy J. Sparks, was published in July 2001; Rednecks, Redeemers, and Race: Mississippi after Reconstruction, 1877-1917 by Stephen Cresswell was published in April 2006; Mississippi in the Civil War: The Home Front by Timothy B. Smith was published in June 2010; The Civil War in Mississippi: Major Campaigns and Battles by Michael B. Ballard was published in March 2011; Mississippi’s American Indians by James F. Barnett Jr. was published in April 2012; and A Literary History of Mississippi, edited by Lorie Watkins, was published in June 2017. The Society also plans to publish eight additional books in the series with the following proposed titles: Colonial Mississippi; From Bondage to Freedom: Slavery in Mississippi, 1690-1865; From Frontier to Secession: Mississippi, 1840–1861; From Hope to Heartbreak: Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow;Mississippi During World War II; The Struggle for Civil Rights; Mississippi’s Cultural Heritage: Literature; and Mississippi in the Twentieth Century: an Economic History.

In August 2000, the Society launched this online publication, Mississippi History Now, to strengthen its educational and leadership role in order to generate a broader interest in Mississippi history. Articles are archived on the site and provide a rich source of Mississippi history.

The Mississippi Historical Society has provided programs and produced books, maps, brochures, and other materials aimed towards the education of the general public. Annual meetings provide distinguished speakers, tours of historic sites, and special events. The Mississippi Historical Society provides annual grants to support programs of the Junior Historical Society, which has chapters in schools across the state. A constant goal of the Society is to increase its membership.

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