DELTA TIME: A Journey Through Mississippi by Tony Dunbar

DELTA TIME: A Journey Through Mississippi

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Having first visited the Mississippi Delta as a civil-rights activist in 1968, Dunbar, now a New Orleans attorney, returns to discover what changes have occurred during the intervening years. What he finds is a society transformed by what he describes as ""the last armistice of the Civil War."" The most pervasive of the changes that Dunbar describes is the growing political clout of the Delta's black residents, who now include many of the area's congressmen, mayors, and other officials. Citing instances of mutual cooperation and respect between the races, Dunbar finds that the shift has been made with surprising ease. He interviews Ray Mabus, the white 39-year-old Mississippi governor who ran on a reform ticket in 1987 and garnered 90 percent of the state's black votes; and talks with Robert Walker, Vicksburg's black mayor, who vows to make the city ""a model in this country for race relations."" Meanwhile, Dunbar finds other signs of a transformed South. Catfish has replaced cotton as the Delta's number-one cash crop, for example; and Dunbar explores the problems and profits catfish fanning has brought. He mourns the decline of small towns, now bypassed by the major highways and left to molder in the southern sun. He also celebrates such continuing traditions as the blues--W.C. Handy lived and wrote in Clarksdale, and today Wade Walton carries on Handy's legacy at the town's Club Casanova. To enliven his narrative, Dunbar offers sharply etched portraits of many Delta residents. There's Tiny Man Brown, who regrets that today's black youngsters are unaware of how things were in segregation days. And there's 90-year-old Evelyn S. Pearson, who recalls plantation life--happy tenant farmers and moonlight cruises on the river--in a haze of romanticism. An objective, affectionate, balanced picture of southern life.

Pub Date: June 18th, 1990
Publisher: Pantheon