Ethnic Heritage in Mississippi
A penetrating survey of the diverse ethnic heritage in the Magnolia State
Most portraits of Mississippi's people seem to be done in black and white. Yet only a moment's reflection and observation will indicate the inadequacy of such a limited palette.
The first to populate this region were American Indians—Choctaw, Chickasaw, Natchez, and others in even earlier periods. The predominant white Anglo-Scots-Irish population is enlivened by other European groups—colonial French and Spanish, later Yugoslavians, Italians—and the Mediterranean Greeks and Lebanese. Africans came from southern states to the east as well as through New Orleans from the Caribbean and many parts of Africa. The Chinese came to the Delta during Reconstruction, and more recently increasing numbers of Vietnamese have found their way to the Gulf Coast. Both groups from the Orient have prospered, as has a growing population of immigrants from India. A second influx of Hispanics from Cuba and other parts of Latin America has enriched the mixture.
This study, published in association with the Mississippi Humanities Council, seeks to provide current scholarly approaches to an often-neglected segment of Mississippi, dispelling the simplistic black-and-white myth and demonstrating the historic and pervasive influence of diverse ethnic groups on Mississippi culture in the twentieth century. Beginning with archeological knowledge of the original inhabitants and moving through history to the arrival of Europeans, Africans, and eventually Asians, the contributors to this volume chart the encounters and exchanges of every kind among these disparate peoples.
The dominant theme throughout the essays is that of encounter—violent or friendly—followed by adjustment and adaptation. Issues of acculturation versus maintenance of separate cultural identity, the “melting pot” or the “tossed salad,” continue to concern Mississippi's citizens and reflect in the microcosm of this Deep South state a problem that may be the largest one facing this country in the next century.