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Book Review of Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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When reading Mississippi Trial, 1955, readers will feel sympathetic to the lives of African Americans in the segregated Southern United States. The main character, Hiram Hillburn, shows the necessity to stand up for people when they are being treated unfairly, disregarding their skin color. Even when he feels pressured by his friends, family, or community to dismiss the rights of others, he refuses to do so. Civil Rights and Jim Crow Laws are significant topics discussed in the novel.
The novel takes place in Greenwood, Mississippi in the 1950s.While growing up in Greenwood, Hiram lives a typical lifestyle with his grandfather and grandmother. During this time, his parents are living and working in Oxford and the relationship between his father, Harlan and his grandfather is coming to a boiling point. Harlan and Hiram’s grandfather disagree on civil rights issues which paints Hiram’s grandfather as an ordinary racist Southerner. In the midst of their arguments Hiram’s grandmother passes away and this has a big impact on Hiram. After the death of his mother, Harlan gets a job offer in Arizona and decides to move Hiram and the family there. This angers Hiram’s grandfather and after the move, any attempts to bring Hiram back to Mississippi have failed. Later in 1955 Hiram’s grandfather has a stroke which finally gives Harlan the opportunity to let Hiram go to Mississippi. After arriving back in Greenwood, Hiram meets Emmett Till, an African-American boy from Chicago who is also visiting his family in Mississippi. Hiram also reunites with R.C. Rydell, a childhood friend who is known for having angry outbursts which Hiram is very cautious of. After R.C. attempts to torture Emmett, a few days later Emmett is reported by the Greenwood Commonwealth as missing and then is later found dead in the Tallahatchie River. Hiram fears that a third unknown suspect in the case could be R.C. Hiram is later called to testify about the case but fears backlash from his community and family because of his liberal views on civil rights and the rights of African-Americans. Despite advice from friends and family not to testify in the trial, Hiram attends the historic murder trial of Emmett Till with his grandfather and is not called to testify. In the end the verdict in the trial is not guilty and this angers Hiram because he believes the decision is biased because it was made by an all-white jury. On the the night of the verdict, Hiram finally meets R.C., who has been working in Jackson and has told the sheriff he had nothing to do with the murder of Till. In the final days that Hiram is in Mississippi he hopes to also meet Naomi, who is R.C.’s sister who has been abused by her father and who Hiram wants to help. R.C. says that she probably lives with another family. On his final day in Mississippi, Hiram regrets not being able to apologize to his grandfather for not respecting his views on the trial and civil rights but does end up meeting Naomi, who is safe, living with another family. After arriving back in Arizona, Hiram meets his father at the train station and is able to repair his relationship with him and understand him better.
One element of the book that I enjoyed was the discussion of civil rights and the rights of colored people. This is significant because the novel discusses the murder trial of Emmett Trial which is considered to be the historic trial that sparked the Civil Rights Movement. Without this trial, the protests of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. may have not happened. Another portion of the novel that was vital was the differing opinions within Hiram’s own family and community about the rights of people of color. This is exhibited when the novel discusses Hiram’s grandfather’s work for the White Citizens’ Council which works to counter desegregation efforts in the state of Mississippi. On the other hand Hiram’s father, Harlan, believes that African-Americans living in the south should be given their full constitutional rights like all other citizens. These two sides of the argument are important in making this novel a well-written text.
I believe that the true protagonists and antagonists in this book are Hiram Hillburn and R.C. Rydell. This is because Hiram believes that racism should not exist in his town or anywhere in the country. While R.C. believes that black people are inferior and that after Hiram came back from Arizona he has become more sympathetic to African-Americans and their cause. These two important character show the contrasting opinions in the novel and help the text to become more developed. In the end, I would highly recommend this novel to teens because it shows that they can work with their peers to find solutions when they don’t agree on an issue.




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