Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in History


Arch Dalrymple III Department of History

First Advisor

Jarod H. Roll

Second Advisor

Ted Ownby

Third Advisor

Amy E. Wells Dolan

Relational Format



This dissertation examines how ideas about the future and the past shaped the meaning and role of Mississippi’s flagship state university during the Jim Crow period. “The Design of the Southern Future” is a story of contingency and contestation, of struggles over expansion and democratization, and of the burdens of founding myths and myths of the founding. It reveals the interior dynamics that shaped the University of Mississippi’s development from the birth of Jim Crow until just before the desegregation crises of the 1950s and 1960s. These internal processes allothe institution to overcome problems of exclusivity and class tension, but they also tied the future and identity of the university closely to the cause of white supremacy and segregation. By examining the building of the University of Mississippi as an element of an ambitious program to combine the promise of a white majoritarian future with the permanent exclusion of African Americans, “The Design of the Southern Future” treats the erection of a segregationist institution as a project in equipping Jim Crow for the long-haul by expanding and modernizing the services and possibilities that a dynamic form of white supremacy seemed to offer. By the 1940s, the University of Mississippi had succeeded in mending its internal divisions and harnessing the power and resources of the federal government to build itself into a laboratory for white democracy. Thus when African Americans challenged segregation at the university in the 1950s and 1960s, defenders of Ole Miss were not merely protecting a citadel of Jim Crow; they were fighting to promote future visions of white supremacy.

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