On September 22, 2021, Emma J. Folwell discussed her new book The War on Poverty in Mississippi: From Massive Resistance to New Conservatism as part of the History Is Lunch series.
President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty instigated a ferocious backlash in Mississippi. Federally funded programs—the embodiment of 1960s liberalism—directly clashed with Mississippi’s closed society. From 1965 to 1973, opposing forces transformed the state.
In her new University Press of Mississippi book Folwell traces the attempts of white and Black Mississippians to address the state’s dire economic circumstances through antipoverty programs. At times the war on poverty became a powerful tool for Black empowerment. But more often antipoverty programs served as a potent catalyst of white resistance to Black advancement.
“There was both a war against poverty and a war against the war on poverty in Mississippi,” said Folwell. “Over time that opposition transformed from the campaign against Head Start into an ostensibly race-neutral opposition to social welfare programs and linked seamlessly to the emerging language of rights and individualism characteristic of the new conservatism.”
Fulbright Award winner Emma J. Folwell is senior lecturer at Newman University in Birmingham, England. She earned her BA and PhD degrees in history from the University of Leicester and her MSt in American history from the Queen’s College, Oxford. Folwell’s research has been supported by grants from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, the British Association for American Studies, and the Royal Historical Society. She has been published in the Journal of Mississippi History, Journal of American Studies, and Reviews in History.
History Is Lunch is sponsored by the John and Lucy Shackelford Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation for Mississippi. The weekly lecture series of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History explores different aspects of the state's past. The hour-long programs are broadcast from the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium of the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum building.