Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Giesen, James C.

Committee Member

Ward, Jason M.

Committee Member

Marshall, Anne E.

Committee Member

Williams, Michael V.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of History


Hazel Brannon Smith, a prominent white newspaper owner in Mississippi before, during, and after the civil rights era was an avowed supporter of Jim Crow segregation for the first half of her career, until pressure from the white establishment and the changing political and social milieu of the 1950s and 1960s pushed her to become an ally of the black struggle for social justice. Smith's biography reveals how many historians have miscast white liberals of this period. Smith was considered a liberal by her peers, but her actions reveal the firm limits of white liberalism in the rural South during the Civil Rights era. While this dissertation undergirds scholarly research over the last twenty years which viewed the fight for civil rights from a grounds root level, it shows how Smith was unique. She never fully escaped her white paternalistic sentiments, yet she spoke out consistently against racial extremism in Mississippi in the 1960s. Based upon newspaper accounts, personal collections, oral histories and recent scholarly treatments, this work argues that the white response to the civil rights movement in Mississippi was far from uniform.