Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Philips, Jason

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


In Indianola, Mississippi the past and present remain inextricably linked. Unresolved racial issues proved this point in 1986 as tension exploded within Indianola’s public education and economic sectors. Lingering segregation and socioeconomic inequalities brought outside scrutiny to Indianola’s white elites. To counter this negative image, Indianola leaders turned to Delta Blues tourism. Supported by state and federal agencies, they expanded the blues industry over the next two decades. They promised its institutions would alleviate the problems which caused the 1986 crisis: the economy, education, and racial inequality. Officials structured Indianola’s blues market around native B.B. King. They incorporated King’s rags-to-riches life into the creation of Indianola’s own success story. Using sociological analyses, anthropological studies, and an array of primary sources, this thesis reveals how the endeavor largely failed. Indianola society still struggles with its past. Racial inequalities continue, and this study urges for other ideas and reforms.