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the national educational television network presents at issue a commentary on events and people in the new issue this week from oxford mississippi a conversation with dr james dobbins over professor of history here at the university of mississippi and author of the recently published book mississippi a closed society dr silver talks with the editor of the texas observer and a contributor to the new york times magazine harpers and other national publications ronnie duggar an issue walking as raymond a time not so yeah like fourth in the rain i used to do a good deal of those decisions both reveal one more right here yes i would say that the goal is something or a hundred years old and my children play in the
global elite a lot quieter honor i guess it was two years ago it was the riots here roger the right clothes years four or six was before the riot i knew that other big states coming up two years off our conversation and in the beginning i intended to write a comparison of mississippi and the administrative of the paris review fifty nine sixty three when governor barnett the nineteenth of the nineteen sixty four and i thought that was a good news a malaria this was simply going to be a powerful exercise but as rite occurs in the aftermath of a riot i have changed for more to the president than the point that the assailant or
maybe fourth on the road as i understand the basis of that that's over you're saying in mississippi is nearly a police state is a closed society which you're stated in general ways that is often played in your experience why you came to this conflict in the first place for they didn't know it first a majority and now save forty two or three percent of the population the city does not participate in the society itself but beyond that are white since ellis agreed on what i call the official orthodoxy which anything for slavery and today's white supremacy and this is backed up or but those were state sovereignty and fundamentalism and religion and the terrible thing about this is it is that while most of the services
will along with those who do not below are only keep quiet and then when they dont think we're they're threatened and they may even stop the violence the most likely thing is that one of the things that interested me most in your book was your statements about spying in the development of our neighborhood cross indexed is not going on to mud sixteenth this is something i haven't witnessed myself but the state sovereignty commission has admitted for six years as its probe of negroes who turn and reports on what is happening in the negro community and i know that if you start with i think they had a service and in fact that you don't have the old frail and that he feels that he's under constant surveillance and the eu doesn't bear logo thats in the book he doesn't dare talk about what the only phone to see if
anybody is why this show really ordinary americans experience as an ordinary american state press or intrude on discount process to what extent does the press helped make this kind of society we believe the well is this comes into a question that people ask me quite often about the differences between georgia and the city in georgia you've got a liberal newspapers you've got some intellectual ferment whereas in the city the chief said in the capital city of the scipio only two newspapers owned by the same family and i think given that they are at cause of the those inside and the other hand i hasten to suggest that on the periphery and revell and tupelo while ago and as the oil and then in some of the smaller towns are newspapers which
voters would like nothing better than to break open this poses it so it's not uniformly close it is not a completely closed society have never said that was one time when other manifestations are there other close society here the professor are wise it that so few people seemed to take the position you do although it's commonplace in other parts of the country for your party or tripled i think it goes back to three generations of people who have suffered through this accent wyatt's people persistently sets the end of the war have been written by large and they grow up hearing stories about the antebellum south and about the confederacy about reconstructing that story which ran down for hours as a historical trend though there is right now there is a historical foundation of what
they have learned has been the quality so it's i noticed in your book you spoke with the citizens council hadn't prepared are some programs in particular programs or recommended recommendations for the public still has the whole i don't think the very serious and it is so la or two or three months of service and there was before with i think seriously they suggested starring historical story to be told that summer to be taught in the third fourth fifth sixth grade and they were so ridiculous so funny i suppose they include all of the cliches with both mississippi law within a way that though there were discontented not sure they were never tied series now think of a single serious teachers that mississippi would go along with it our mascot is a far more serious question them all you contend that this is nearly a
police state parkway near words for us mere to a police state as anything in the american experience all in what ways is this failed state in the native community all the liaisons it your intention not the negroes in some situations i don't think that that is the main point i know there is an incredible acts of police brutality going back at least a year because i talk with dozens and dozens of all time a lot of them who have told me about their experiences with a gross that is not there so much as it is the fact that the negroes are living in a society that would say don't really because of that they have nothing to do other than a single word negro officeholder there has been for the last century and these people are at the complete mercy of the whites the deputy sheriffs and so on and so instead of asking just as they had become
in an a baby or something from the white man and the white man who assumes that this girl is unfair and so i say in the book that there are three or four kinds of justice in mississippi one woman they grow as a controversy with another liberal when they grow has covered with a white van and there were white and as a congress and a white man and so on the first thing is that they're saying as we're all aware and negroes and winds perhaps involved in civil rights actions have special problems will do it will force the first place only for a negro lawyers and civil rights cases there is not a single white lawrence davis isn't to say so it's because nowadays involvement there are in the states of outside lawyers went to columbus to help with a spill
they review the right practice in the local court officer one hears criticism to mississippi that you are in effect turning against this idea that merchants here all what is your i suppose it's maybe to a lot of people think about and talk about it and doesn't worry that an element in this place were resetting and that are within a half mile of iraq in three to level above a year for the city i have given the state's four dollars but i have also given most of my adult life to this university and i have done my level best to improve the states to leverage the old german department or fifteen years you know as i say that this is why state and watch is ross barnett for anybody else's and i am not carry on the state because i see that in the next ten years so they must give are
some of the things that is taken for granted for a hundred years it has effects over the constitution tonight hear now the rest of the country is not going to tolerate this and so my main point i think in writing this book is to bring out in the open things that every eligible first no nos such as the inevitability of this transition as it's coming it's got that covered so what you've got to say it out loud and get people thinking about making adjustments your film also are in a somewhat unfair in la many historically this is where you find yourself a professor asked to serve its function which is usually a moralist political function the politician sir i'll say so will are not an ivory tower but who are somewhat isolated anc was going on in the community or society are the people of dissipating or actually and i suppose
fact i know at florida conservative very pretty people about this what i call a responsibility of lawyers and judges and newspaper people and church leaders and so on and they know what the problem is i know what needs to be done and yet they are either afraid of the static those violent play much heart in a moment here and the silence of the possibility of violence since this it's been truly pure and back to making factories you find that has been truer sense of whatever there was a crisis developing there were threats of violence and sometimes violence that occurred france's an eighteen fifty nine making sixty there were rumors of slave insurrection which i think were worth were manufactured for the purpose of creating a historical circle of our own all now
on the other side of this question about your motives in this matter what also appears frequently comments on your courage or so and in this area not to ask you to discuss that matter what happened when your speech was named a new and since your book has come out in personally for example how have your friendships and well first was so good there isn't much courage involved because i live a somewhat secluded community and the steps that i have taken and thirty other faculty they were taken have been a little bit day by day the steps in themselves are not particularly important but in this close it if you make one step the society does not lie you retreat and before long you are driven to what you might have thought in the beginning was an extreme position in atlanta harrison telephone calls every year a law that you can turn that old battle of whether the kitchen that
sort of thing that in the bedroom and when we go to bed we turn it that we don't even hear it on and then take the threat of violence seriously enough during the rats descended on our overnight know i get a letter where you read this letter and one o'clock in the afternoon when i new ways i thought i know that there are a couple of carloads of who have come out appears jackson with the governor's side ways that was nasa got that way as i wrote a letter to joe was her fellow would and seven so as prices soar and in the letter i sent them i would say they'll move in all the early big test for what about your friends it's here and now and they held every wow this is kind of a delicate thing to know what's happening i have lost friends there are people who have no social airports anymore alliance at an individual louse who
i think doesn't really feel badly towards me i know i know you reported it we haven't spoken for over year what we've done we regrouped our appliances and our friends and we have a closely knit group of eighteen twenty people friends who were just appointed a couple years ago we shift around i think we're just as valid to socialize a year ago this is something that i don't know too much about i know that there are people in the state who have dedicated their lives perhaps a couple of other board trustee to get a rule solar and governor barnett says that for four years he worked with the tears do exactly that on the other hand i do have tenure i have as my greatest resource the fact that mississippi was once this university backers of the war days in the earth picture he overthrew was put on probation for a full year
and i think people realize that if our fire out and without a really good reason as i think would be the case then all of the states who might possibly be discredited i don't know there sure are very very serious and it might they have reserves that the medical school all of which every mississippians providence a magnificent work there in the last ten years that they are the radicals who might have to leave and go to pieces so were at odds over in the question of teaching itself are is there a backlash in their classrooms and planned to feel an effect in this is in some ways attenuated as a teacher one of the reasons that i do plan that they believed that this next year one of the reasons i intended to this is that i've been so obsessed with this small question that i don't think he's
ever done in the past that we like to do on the other hand i was on leave of absence a peculiar sabbatical leave of the year override vote because i plan to stay on the campus where i thought i could write this book i was a lot of activity and so last year old lawyer all that in my classes that the reddish and i can't see that there was what's difference in the other device didn't make sense controversial and they're like a slightly educational professor loyola law was to have a primary purpose trying to get through this thing and i think for a lot of ocean and the facts are what about mississippi itself in a way that makes it barely worth you're sitting out here and fighting about it what is it that you like won in the way a life is that by your lights i came here by accident i
came here so early because this was the best job i can get in it and thirty six of the rhetoric alienating hundred dollars a year and i stayed here for several years because it was the middle of it and then i learned to like a macho warrior they grow up there i was able to develop a little bit later i think markets in the south state progress especially after world war two nineteen forty six to fifty six or seven i had left the most optimistic oh i thought the school was developing into something really fine and i'm sure i was in about fifty seven three years after the supreme court decision and after the board instituted a screening process for speakers and that sort of thing the good people not all of the people that some of the good people in the park are they so kelly
and they laugh at this that says laptop you feel in some of the key point on this is a hard thing to say because you have to define what a professor but if you take the cattle on september nineteen sixty two and there it was september nineteen sixty three you find that there are something like fifty to sixty fewer they know these were all professors at morris but it is my estimate i think a reasonable and about twenty five people some are very best people ahead most of the native mississippians and come back to dedicate their lives to the state left because it would no longer tolerate the situation this is a you know that's a larger a lot to reduce i'm so many of your students who feel would make for change in the state leave for the same reason that was a lot the best young men were between
eighteen twenty five and forty five were killed in the civil war era of those who came back to mississippi after the war a great many letters that went north they went west they went to south america and i know that a great many of the very best brightest most sensitive young people have been leaving the state ever since and this is not all because of the racial situation of the closest idea because economic opportunities outside the state this raises the question quite naturally about all of these young folks were coming in from all over the united states and the issue whether these are pilgrims are outside agitators know what your position on stem cells or actually there are five or six hundred in the state now and i don't think any more cover that although there's also a core of lawyers and ministers and so on so my bigger thousand strangers within the state fbi good julian that these people are going to this is the summer that just
isn't true and the city is going to change so it was very very slowly what do you think these people and to take on all well i added but this is at the top of the things i think which are not true about the people coming in with a lot of these yet i thought was able to yale and stanford and their young and idealistic and that overall say but they're not coming and they're not coming in to do anything except they'll try to get what vacancies basic rights the right to vote these people are not going to be involved in demonstrations as far as i know what i'd like to make it clear that in mississippi where in jackson for it for the last four months the negro leaders have not given him to get the bear on the telephone
where there is no recourse within the framework of the society it saved me that there's nothing else they can do except demonstrators away and this of course is a is a basic constitutional right and he actually i don't know if all the heroin because you may remember that walter ruther who now are unsure as one of the most respected locally the company inserted very responsible men back in thirty six or thirty seven addition was i remember people to switch in a plant where it brought out a sit down strike this is illegal it was illegal in the same way i suppose some of the demonstrations in jackson wiley they violate the local ordinances on on the other hand wants these people in the industrial organizations for more for instance
got the right to organize and after a while they became highly responsive and i know ridiculous everyone agree with this but i think the euro will be a workers and nevada's roads so the basic rights that they will be only give up some of these what i call minor violations of the law let me raise this question that you say in your book from your long friendship with faulkner william faulkner that he was of the opinion that mississippi would not be about segregation about outside forces and the last sentence of your first part of that expresses your opinion as i have it here that perhaps acting through the power and authority of the federal government change will have to be brought about in mississippi the more concretely not just over what is that mean in terms of marshall's our troops
are court orders or what have you they're not working with us at any time before let's say nineteen fifty seven i would say that we can say are so old that i say or very sad play that i don't think the city would ever changes in the next two three generations without outside help plus something else which wasn't available in mississippi until nineteen fifty four and i don't know whether that where this thing came from that is and the indigenous where does aaron henry and edgar evers and charles evers and dave meredith and the boy who's on the campus know where these come from i don't know about it so are you mean the outside help may have to i believe this race has the justice department been working very very difficult situation very hard and lived through three year to increase voter registration they're working in the courts and of course there's all sorts of pressure and
b thorson oh boy i don't know what you mean but fortunately in the united states army presence in the courts now this'll be about mr doe well we know they were so i dont see any reason why the president won't say the prayers the kind of leadership we have the nineteen fifty nine until january of this year is that they'll see september thirtieth says so or there's a letter in your book you wrote that jackson i can and which is sad about your speech that you wished the editors and the congressman a governor would read it even if i had to on the way to your funeral i guess you is really think about the possibility of violence so was also with us that that with minor year old you were the point is that very night that i made the speech governor aren't sounded all congressman william sound at all and so on others did they obviously had not
read this piece into the water of a veteran for that anyone in america but i wonder if there isn't i asked the question because i wonder sometimes you're not really tempted to leave you are a cave so many times in the last year europe oh you're go in march and i have an overload of that would be a basis of those were the make the nineties so as david right by ross barnett it was horrible example of this than a lot of money as a million dollars out of odds as a dentist and lawyer he got fifty to be fifty years old and he does it with counties provided the encounter he had no preparation for he had no knowledge about the governor and what a lot of offices a creative way they've been telling me what i should do while he was making this money i was teaching as i say start making hundred dollars a year and i think in my little way that
i would probably contribute more to the future of the state of this is over their osborne had ever thought about the same neither is please it's nice he's
At Issue
Episode Number
Mississippi: A Conversation with James W. Silver
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Library of Congress (Washington, District of Columbia)
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Episode Description
Professor James W. Silver of the University of Mississippi one of the Souths most severe critics of segregation, will give his views on the racial crisis in Mississippi and the prospects for integration there. Professor Silver came into the national spotlight two years ago when he defended the admission of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi. He was verbally denounced by members of the state legislature and threatened with suspension. At Issue camera teams traveled to Oxford, Mississippi to record a dialogue between Professor Silver and Ronnie Dugger, editor and general manager of the Texas Observer, a bi-weekly newspaper in Austin, Texas. In his recent highly praised book Mississippi: The Closed Society, the controversial professor writes that the state has turned in upon itself and has built an invisible wall to protect itself from the ultimate changes underway outside of its border. A southerner by adoption, Professor Silver has taught history at the University of Mississippi since 1936. At Issue is broadcast across the country on the National Educational Television network of 82 affiliated non-commercial stations. Running Time: 28:55 (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
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At Issue consists of 69 half-hour and hour-long episodes produced in 1963-1966 by NET, which were originally shot on videotape in black and white and color.
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Talk Show
Social Issues
Race and Ethnicity
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Executive Producer: Perlmutter, Alvin H.
Guest: Silver, James W.
Host: Dugger, Ronnie
Producer: Stern, Andrew A.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2047492-1 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: 2 inch videotape: Quad
Generation: Master
Color: B&W
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2047492-2 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: 1 inch videotape: SMPTE Type C
Generation: Master
Color: B&W
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2047492-3 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: U-matic
Generation: Copy: Access
Color: B&W
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2047492-4 (MAVIS Item ID)
Generation: Master
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2047492-5 (MAVIS Item ID)
Generation: Copy: Access
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Chicago: “At Issue; 40; Mississippi: A Conversation with James W. Silver,” 1964-07-06, Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 19, 2022,
MLA: “At Issue; 40; Mississippi: A Conversation with James W. Silver.” 1964-07-06. Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 19, 2022. <>.
APA: At Issue; 40; Mississippi: A Conversation with James W. Silver. Boston, MA: Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from