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Charles Banks, Mound Bayou, and the Wider Sphere of Tuskegee

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Charles Banks, Mound Bayou, and the Wider Sphere of Tuskegee

David Jackson wrote a fascinating account on the African-American conflict to become successful in Jim Crow Mississippi. A Chief Lieutenant is three interwoven stories, each extraordinarily important for delineating the limits to African American agency in an era characterized by white supremacists's "rage for order." The biography of Charles Banks (1873-1923) businessman, banker, and advocate for African American Opportunity is the first thread. The struggles of African Americans in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, to maintain their autonomy despite monocultural dependence upon cotton and the predatorial behavior of white businessmen and speculators, forms the second. The final tale is the effort of Booker T. Washington's "Tuskegee machine" to support Banks and Mound Bayou despite many setbacks. Together, these stories offer a compelling, lucid picture of black civic leaders eking resources out of the Mound Bayou community, state and federal government, and white philanthropists, all in an effort to define freedom upon their own termsIt should be noted at the outset that Jackson's stated goals are as follows: first, to offer a "fresh interpretation and the Tuskegee Machine that mitigates the image of the machine as being conniving, heavy-handed, intolerable, and ruthless;" "an insider's perspective on the workings of the machine;" a discussion of "the benefits received by members of the machine, such as capital, expertise, national exposure, and political power;" and, finally, to demonstrate the ways in which the machine was "mutually beneficial" for all parties concerned. What we learn about Booker T. Washington, Emmett Scott, Robert Moton, and Tuskegee, may well be the most significant contribution of Jackson's volume to the wider scholarly readership. Still, it has become commonplace for authors, with some not so gentle prodding from manuscript readers and editors, to "market" their volumes by establishing their significance in terms of an intellectual most common denominator. Tuskegee sells. This might even e

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