Historian Reveals the Knotted Roots of Mississippi’s Labor Movement

Martin Luther King, Jr. in Mississippi, August 1966

Martin Luther King, Jr. in Mississippi, August 1966. Photo from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Photographic Archive

Did you know that the organized labor movement in the South learned from and influenced the black freedom struggle?

These stunning events are revealed in Dr. Max Grivno’s (University of Southern Mississippi) new essay “Protest in the Pines: Organized Labor and Civil Rights in South Mississippi, 1945 – 1985.” On Thursday, April 28 at 12:30 p.m., Grivno will present his research at the Georgia State University Library, on the eighth floor of Library South. Researchers of history, African-American studies, labor, political science, sociology and more should find Grivno’s presentation an interesting contribution to interdisciplinary dialogues. According to Grivno’s abstract:

In Mississippi’s Piney Woods, organized labor and the Civil Rights movement sank roots that grew deep and entangled.  Drawing the records of the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF) and the Mississippi AFL-CIO, this project examines how the region’s traditions of labor militancy shaped—and were shaped by—the black freedom struggle. By examining south Mississippi’s rich heritage of labor militancy and Civil Rights activism, this essay considers how these intertwined struggles shaped the political and social landscape of a southern state that is notorious for its opposition to organized labor.

Grivno is the 2010 recipient of the Reed Fink Award, administered by the Southern Labor Archives, part of the Georgia State University Library. The award honors the contributions of professors Merl E. Reed and Gary Fink, both of whom were instrumental in the establishment, development, and use of the Southern Labor Archives at Georgia State University from the early 1970s.

Grivno joined the faculty of the University of Southern Mississippi in 2007 after completing his doctorate at the University of Maryland. Grivno’s research and teaching interests include slavery, labor history, southern history, and the early national period.

His April 28th presentation will touch many of these topics, making use of the unique materials in the Georgia State University Library’s collections to support his findings.

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