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James Silver

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James Wesley Silver (June 28, 1907 – July 25, 1988) was a history professor and author. He wrote Mississippi: The Closed Society. He was a professor at the University of Mississippi, then University of Notre Dame, and finally at the University of South Florida.[1][2][3] He was targeted for firing despite his tenure at Ole Miss because of his support for civil rights.[4]

When rioting erupted on the Ole Miss campus after James Meredith became the University of Mississippi's first African-American student and federal troops moved in to keep order, Silver befriended Meredith.[5] In a speech to the Southern Historical Association in the Fall of 1963, he analyzed the violence with which Mississippi was resisting desegregation. Mississippi was, he said, "a closed society" -- "totalitarian," "monolithic," "corrupt." The speech received widespread media coverage, and he expanded his analysis in a book, Mississippi: The Closed Society (1964). His advocacy of racial change had subjected him to hostility in Mississippi and even an attempt by the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission to have him fired. That effort failed, but Silver took a job teaching at University of Notre Dame in Indiana.[6]

He taught at Notre Dame from 1965 until 1969. He left Notre Dame to teach history at the University of South Florida until he retired in 1982.[7]

He corresponded with the president of Tougaloo College A. D. Beittel.[8]

Photographer Martin J. Dain took photographs of him in Oxford, Mississippi.[9] Silver was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[10]


  • Mississippi: The Closed Society (1964)
  • Confederate Morale and Church Propaganda (1967)
  • Life for the Confederacy (1974)
  • Running Scared: Silver in Mississippi (1984)


  1. ^ "Silver, James W." Mississippi Encyclopedia.
  2. ^ "Obituaries : James Wesley Silver; Historian, Author, Civil Rights Champion". Los Angeles Times. July 28, 1988.
  3. ^ "James Wesley Silver". Spartacus Educational.
  4. ^ "Silver, James W. (James Wesley), 1907-". crdl.usg.edu.
  5. ^ Staff Report (September 26, 2011). "UM Tribute Set for Professor James W. Silver". Ole Miss News.
  6. ^ Carol Polsgrove, Divided Minds: Intellectuals and the Civil Rights Movement (2001), pp. 211-219.
  7. ^ Krebs, Albin (July 26, 1988). "Obituary: James W. Silver, 81, a Professor Who Fought for Racial Equality". New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  8. ^ "Search". egrove.olemiss.edu.
  9. ^ "Photos of James W. Silver | James W. Silver Collection | University of Mississippi". egrove.olemiss.edu.
  10. ^ "James Wesley Silver". American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

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