The Impact of Segregation in the South: A Social Coming-of-Age Story in ‘Mississippi Trial, 1955’

In Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe, the author tells a story about a boy named Hiram who comes back to Greenwood, Mississippi to visit his Grandfather. When he revisits and goes down memory lane, he discovers that a lot of things have changed since he had lived in the South as a young child. He slowly discovers that there are a lot of changes in the South that he hasn’t realized as a naive boy and it hits him hard like a brick when he realized that everything he thought was true, was basically a lie. Then, a savage murder of an African-American boy that Hiram had befriended takes place. Hiram has to stand up for what he knows is right and rely on his instincts when the people closest to him reveal the truth that he might not want to hear, developing both moral and social consciousness by confronting instances of injustice.

Crowe’s book is based around a main conflict, segregation. The major conflict in the story is segregation between the different skin colors and how they are treated. When Hiram visits his Grandfather in Greenwood, Mississippi, he notices how African Americans were treated differently. They were disrespected, looked down at, and treated in a generally judgmental manner by prejudiced whites. When a savage and inhumane murder of a black boy occurred in the town, Hiram is faced with decisions to do what is right, or to do what is expected from him. This main conflict is so significant because of how it impacts Hiram’s feelings and opinions about everything he has ever known and believed in.

To begin with, segregation is a major conflict in the story because of the way it impacts the protagonist Hiram as the narrative moves along. For example, at the beginning of the story, Hiram was a naive boy who had formed opinions made by his elders – primarily about how white skinned people were always “above” African Americans. Back then, unfortunately, this was a common understanding about races. However, when the conflict of segregation and separation between races becomes known to Hiram, he is affected by his changed opinions. In the start, he was like your average boy that was ignorant and stuck in a dark cave, with no sunlight or escape to freedom and the outside world. There is a major allegory symbolized in the Crowe’s book, specifically on the lack of education about equality, the world, and people other than whites. I know this was a common theme throughout his childhood, for Hiram believed, “That’s why Dad acted so crazy about the South and segregation. Maybe he realized that bullies would always find someone to pick on, if not the Negroes, then somebody else”(97). This evidence shows how Hiram finally realizes that his father was right about the isolation in the southern part of America. The protagonist’s perspective changes when he sees first account the horrors and the ways that he once called the norm. When the conflict of Segregation and separation of colors arises, it makes Hiram rethink all of his formed opinions.

Another reason why the conflict in the story of segregation is so imperative is that it impacts Hiram’s decisions to stand up for himself. When the murder of the black boy was released in the paper, Hiram was faced with a decision. To either tell what he knows and suspects to the biased police force of Mississippi or to keep silent and say what everyone wants and expects to hear. The murder forces Hiram to make a tough decision between doing the right thing, and doing what is expected of him. He ponders over this while mumbling “Nine Days. Only nine days to decide whether or not I’d tell the truth if I had to sit in the witness chair”(149). This shows how Hiram is having an internal conflict within himself, whether or not to tell the truth. Internal conflicts are common with teenagers and adults. Such turmoil affects us no matter the age, gender, or nationality in different ways. The conflict affects Hiram decisions and what path he is going to choose in the trial, to bring justice to black community, or to condemn them to a never-ending exhausting life of oppression.

Without dispute, the main conflict in Mississippi Trial, 1955 is segregation. This theme is so important in the story and contributes to it in so many ways: indeed, it affects the action and motivations of the main character, and it also helps to move the story along. The conflict of segregation makes Hiram choose from choices that are both right and wrong. Without the theme of of separation from his earlier opinions, Hiram would have never had to face the tough decisions he would have to make in the story regarding the murder trial.