James W. Silver Collection

James W. Silver was a professor of history at the University of Mississippi from 1936 to 1964. A distinguished scholar, Silver wrote multiple historical texts and served as chairman of the UM history department from 1946 to 1957. Silver was an ardent opponent of segregation, and his outspokenness on the topic made him the frequent target of segregationist groups. In 1964, Silver published Mississippi: The Closed Society, an indictment of Mississippi’s failure to evolve socially alongside the rest of the country. In the book, Silver characterized the state and its citizens as governed by fear, and apt to repress freedom of opinion and intellectual inquiry through social pressure. The book’s publication generated both praise and intense hostility. Silver was harassed, threatened, and ostracized; eventually the backlash led Silver to fear for his family’s safety, and he left Mississippi to take a job at the University of Notre Dame.

The James W. Silver Digital Collection contains news clippings and pamphlets that document the controversy surrounding Silver’s publicly-expressed support for ending segregation, particularly after the publication of Mississippi: The Closed Society. Also included is professional and personal correspondence between Silver and others—including prominent figures such as Albert Gore, Robert Kennedy, Alfred Knopf, Malcolm X, and Arthur Schlesinger—and 31 “Reports From Britain,” articles written by Silver while teaching at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, on a variety of sociopolitical topics.

The material in the digital collection represents only a fraction of a larger physical collection whose finding aid is available online

Copyright of materials in the James W. Silver Clippings and Correspondence remains with the original author or publication. These items may not be reproduced, re-posted or saved except under fair use, as stipulated by copyright law: reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes use of these digital files for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

For additional manuscript collections concerning race relations and civil rights, see the Civil Rights & Race Relations Subject Guide .

Some of the images and language that appear in this digital collection depict prejudices that are not condoned by the University of Mississippi. This content is being presented as historical documents to aid in the understanding of both American history and the history of the University of Mississippi. The University Creed speaks to our current deeply held values, and the availability of this content should not be taken as an endorsement of previous attitudes or behavior.

Photo from the Martin J. Dain Collection: James Wesley Silver, image 009


Browse the James W. Silver Collection:



Photos of James W. Silver

Reports from Britain, 1949-1950

Speeches and Letters to the Editor