Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.)
Degree Granting Department
Humanities and Cultural Studies
Cheryl Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Laurie Lahey, Ph.D.
Andrew Berish, Ph.D.
Civil Rights, Brown Decision, Emmett Till, Mississippi Delta
This paper examines the racially segregationist practices and the integrationist, inclusionist formation of African American leader Dr. T.R.M. Howard during his tenure as a surgeon and entrepreneur in the all-black Mississippi Delta community of Mound Bayou, 1942-1956. The paper analytically investigates the careful racial negotiations that were required of Howard as he advanced a separatist but egalitarian economic and social plan for Delta blacks. This separatist plan, it is argued, is grounded in the racial pragmatism of the Seventh-day Adventist church which provided a bibliocentric, Tuskegee-inspired education to Howard from youth through medical school and beyond. Howard’s adherence to Adventist racial codes provided him with unique tools to establish financial strength and social cachet whereby he could in time shift to a more inclusionist, desegregationist focus. Howard’s separatist racial pragmatism is demonstrated in his creation of an economic power base in the 1940s. The 1950s shift to an inclusive position appears principally in three developments in Howard’s Mound Bayou career: the founding of the Regional Council for Negro Leadership, his activism after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, and his involvement in the trial of Emmett Till’s killers. Evidence is given from a number of primary sources, including both regional and national newspapers and the collected papers of Mississippi House Speaker Walter Sillers. The thesis argues that Howard’s pragmatism was both informed by Adventist racial pragmatism and provided the base whereby he could challenge Jim Crow directly; the pattern is accepting and enhancing racial segregation for the purpose of developing the means to work toward a racially inclusive, integrationist ideal. This pattern appears in Adventist evangelist practice, and it appears, with striking resemblance, in Howard’s work in Mound Bayou.
Scholar Commons Citation
Southerland, William Jackson, "Negotiating the Delta: Dr. T.R.M. Howard in Mound Bayou, Mississippi" (2016). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.