Yazoo
Integration in a Deep-Southern Town
Willie Morris
With a Foreword by Jennifer Jensen Wallach
and an Afterword by JoAnne Prichard Morris

A civil rights classic, available again

"The republication of Yazoo offers a powerful, cautionary tale for those who insist the nation has transcended its historic racial divide. In the tradition of other notable southern transplants—James Weldon Johnson, Richard Wright, Taylor Branch, and C. Vann Woodward—Morris writes perceptively about the tortured interaction between white supremacy and black self-preservation. Yazoo masterfully combines subjective reflection with objective reporting."
—Steven Lawson, professor emeritus, Rutgers University, and author of Civil Rights Crossroads

"Those who have never read Yazoo will benefit from this new edition for two special reasons: Jennifer Jensen Wallach’s introduction, which provides useful historical perspective, and an afterword by JoAnne Prichard Morris, the author’s widow, which gives us a personal portrait of the man during his last years back home in Mississippi. The book itself is a classic portrayal of the South’s barbarism flailing against its enduring humanity."
—Roy Reed, retired New York Times civil rights reporter and author of the forthcoming memoir Beware of Limbo Dancers

In 1970 Brown v. Board of Education was sixteen years old, and fifteen years had passed since the Brown II mandate that schools integrate “with all deliberate speed.” Still, after all this time, it was necessary for the U.S. Supreme Court to order thirty Mississippi school districts—whose speed had been anything but deliberate—to integrate immediately. One of these districts included Yazoo City, the hometown of writer Willie Morris.

Installed productively on “safe, sane Manhattan Island,” Morris, though compelled to write about this pivotal moment, was reluctant to return to Yazoo and do no less than serve as cultural ambassador between the flawed Mississippi that he loved and a wider world. “I did not want to go back,” Morris wrote. “I finally went home because the urge to be there during Yazoo’s most critical moment was too elemental to resist, and because I would have been ashamed of myself if I had not.”

The result, Yazoo, is part reportage, part memoir, part ethnography, part social critique—and one of the richest accounts we have of a community’s attempt to come to terms with the realities of seismic social change. As infinitely readable and nuanced as ever, Yazoo is available again, enhanced by an informative foreword by historian Jenifer Jensen Wallach and a warm and personal afterword on Morris’s writing life by his widow, JoAnne Prichard Morris.

 

Willie Morris (1934–1999) was the editor in chief of Harper’s and the author of many works of fiction and nonfiction, including North Toward Home and My Dog Skip.

Jennifer Jensen Wallach is the author of Closer to the Truth than Any Fact: Memoir, Memory, and Jim Crow, a study of how memoirs can best be utilized as historical source material. She is also editor of Arsnick: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Arkansas.

JoAnne Prichard Morris was long-time executive editor of the University Press of Mississippi and coauthor of Barefootin’: Life Lessons from the Road to Freedom. She was married to Willie Morris from 1990 to 1999.

 

 

June
5 x 8, 240 pages
$19.95 (s) paper
978-1-55728-983-4