Murder With Southern Hospitality:
An Exhibition of Mississippi Mysteries

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Segregation & Civil Rights

 
Introduction

Confronting Mississippi’s Violent Past in Fiction

Until recently, most authors with Mississippi settings have ignored the state’s most murderous legacy -- slavery, Jim Crow lynchings, and civil rights assassinations. With few exceptions, black characters merely added local color to the southern setting while their dialect and idioms provided comic relief. Like the servant class in English crime novels of the Golden Era, African Americans provided the necessary backdrop of toil to support the leisure class upon which the writers focused. Black victims of violence were never the corpse under investigation, and while real life southern white communities almost reflexively assumed the guilt of those African Americans in close proximity to a crime, authors of pre-1960s mysteries seldom considered their black characters as serious suspects. With the exception of Prentiss Ingraham’s “Darkie Dan,” black Mississippi detectives, professional or amateur, were nonexistent. In the past few decades, however, mystery authors have begun placing their works in the context of the state’s tumultuous past as well as integrating African-American characters more fully into their plots.

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