The Smell of Burning Crosses
An Autobiography of a Mississippi Newspaperman
A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist's account of the terror and menace leveled at advocates of integration
Journalist Ira Harkey (1918–2006) risked it all when he advocated for James Meredith’s admission to the University of Mississippi as the first African American student in 1962.
Preceded by a legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court and violent, deadly rioting, Meredith’s admission constituted a pivotal moment in civil rights history. At the time, Harkey was editor of the Chronicle in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where he published pieces in support of Meredith and the integration of Ole Miss. In 1963, Harkey won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing after firmly articulating his advocacy of change.
Originally published in 1967, this book is Harkey’s memoir of the crisis and what it was like to be a white integrationist editor in fiercely segregationist Mississippi. He recounts conversations with University of Mississippi officials and the Ku Klux Klan’s attempts to intimidate him and muzzle his work. The memoir’s title refers to a burning cross set on the lawn of his home, which occurred in addition to the shot fired at his office.
Reprinted for the fifth time, this book features a new introduction by historian William Hustwit.