The Kings of Mississippi

Kings of Mississippi front book cover

The Kings of Mississippi: Race, Religious Education, and the Making of  a Middle-Class Black Family in the Segregated South


Kings of Mississippi examines how a twentieth-century black middle-class family navigated life in rural Mississippi. The book introduces seven generations of a farming family and provides an organic examination of how the family experienced life and economic challenges as one of few middle-class black families living and working alongside the many struggling black and white sharecroppers and farmers in Gallman, Mississippi. Family narratives and census data across time and a socio-ecological lens help assess how race, religion, education, and key employment options influenced economic and non-economic outcomes. Family voices explain how intangible beliefs fueled socioeconomic outcomes despite racial, gender, and economic stratification. The book also examines the effects of stratification changes across time, including: post-migration; inter- and intra-racial conflicts and compromises; and, strategic decisions and outcomes. The book provides an unexpected glimpse at how a family's ethos can foster upward mobility into the middle-class.


"This provocative, well-crafted book greatly extends research on Black families rooted in and migrating from the Deep South. Barnes and Blanford-Jones provide a revealing socio-ecological window of understanding into the worlds of Black families over generations of constructing lives in the face of white racism and poverty. From richly detailed interviews, we see these courageous Americans proactively and often successfully drawing on landed, religious (Black churches), educational (Black schools), and resistance (counter-framing) capital to not only surmount omnipresent barriers to individual and family mobility but also help build a much better America."

- Joe Feagin, Texas A & M University and author of Racist America

About the Authors

Sandra L. Barnes is the C.V. Starr Endowed Professor and Chair in the Dept. of Sociology at Brown University.

Benita Blanford-Jones is a Social Studies teacher with the Gary Community School Corporation.