Mississippi historian to discuss new book about slavery, his personal history, and conflicting narratives of American and Southern identity

Published 7:20 am Sunday, April 21, 2024

A historian and retired educator, Jim Wiggins knows a few things about slavery in the South, and he knows from growing up in rural Mississippi about the many untruths regarding the history and legacy of race that have proliferated among white Americans.
Based on his research and personal history, Wiggins has written Outliving the White Lie: A Southerner’s Historical, Genealogical, and Personal Journey, which the University Press of Mississippi recently published.
Described as part history and part memoir, Wiggins’s new book tackles the conflicting narratives of American and Southern identity through a blend of public, family, and deeply personal history.
Wiggins will discuss his new book and other topics at the Natchez Historical Society meeting on April 23.
The meeting is free to the public and will be held at Historic Natchez Foundation at 108 S. Commerce St. It will begin with a social at 5:30 p.m. and the presentation at 6 p.m.
Wiggins book will be available for purchase at the meeting.
“I am very much looking forward to my talk at the Natchez Historical Society,” said Wiggins. “I certainly want to promote the book, but more, this is a vitally important topic that cries out for more discussion and greater understanding. I hope we can advance those goals on April 23rd.”
Wiggins said his talk will focus on the lies often told about slavery and race in the nation’s history, from colonial times to the present.
Wiggins will discuss the “lies of commission, omission, and willful ignorance,” while acknowledging his own “ancestors’ participation in that process over time, as well as his own,” he said.
The work is praised by David R. Roediger, co-editor of “The Construction of Whiteness: An Interdisciplinary Analysis  of Race Formation and the Meaning of a White Identity.”
“Comprised of poignant, interwoven reflections on family, public history, and personal experience, Outliving the White Lie provides a sweeping history of the costs of slavery and white supremacy to the South and nation,” Roediger wrote.
Wiggins is a retired History instructor at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, a position he held from 1981 to 2016.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in History from Mississippi State University.
Among other things, Wiggins created and taught non-credit Adult Education  courses at Co-Lin on “Slavery in the Antebellum South in Global Perspective,” “Slavery and the Origins of the Civil War,” “Slavery and the Civil War,” and “Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement.”
Additionally, Wiggins lectured for the Roads Scholar Travel Program on Slavery in American History.
When he was not teaching or lecturing, Wiggins wrote and published columns in The Natchez Democrat.
Wiggins is a resident of Natchez. He said he has spoken for the Natchez Historical Society a number of times over the years.
The April 23 program is funded in part by a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council, through funding by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
For more information, visit natchezhistoricalsociety.org or call 601-492-3004. Emails may be sent to info@natchezhistoricalsociety.org

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