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“Shades of Mississippi”

The Nation of Islam’s Prison Organizing, the Carceral State, and the Black Freedom Struggle


BY GARRETT FELBER


In October 1962 the New York Amsterdam News ran a shocking photograph of a black man, with his arms and legs in shackels, carrying a stack of books into a courtroom. The headline read “Shades of Mississippi!” A press release with a similar title excoriated the hypocrisy of Nelson Rockefeller and other northern white liberals for publicly criticizing Mississippi governor Ross Barnett while silently condoning the chaining of prisoners in New York: “Sir, do you really think that other Negroes in this state are dumb enough to believe that you and these other white so-called liberals are really for the civil rights of Negroes in the South, while the HUMAN RIGHTS of Negroes here in YOUR state are being trampled underfoot?” If “Ross Barnett is to be blamed for civil rights violations in Mississippi, Nelson Rockefeller must take the blame for human rights violations in New York!”


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