Ole Miss Professor, Civil Rights Activist Focus of New Book by Southeast Emeritus Professor

Dr. Robert Hamblin, Southeast Missouri State University professor emeritus of English, recently penned a new biography about English professor, author and civil rights activist Evans Harrington.

“Living in Mississippi: The Life and Times of Evans Harrington” was published this month by the University Press of Mississippi.

Hamblin, who knew Harrington personally, said it was a pleasure to tell his friend’s story.

“Harrington was a passionate and effective advocate for individual liberties and civil rights, and he is representative of those southerners—white and black—who did not leave the South but stayed in their native region—and made a difference,” Hamblin said. “Harrington was one of the good guys who stepped up in troubled times.”

Harrington, a professor at the University of Mississippi, was a longtime member of the biracial Mississippi Council on Human Relations and the Mississippi chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and advocated for political equality, social justice, freedom of speech, and the removal of prayers and Bible study from public school classrooms.

In 1962, he and other Ole Miss liberals openly supported the enrollment of James Meredith, the first African American student to attend Ole Miss. In 1965, he invited African American students from Tougaloo College to attend the Southern Literary Festival hosted by Ole Miss—the first meeting of that organization to be integrated.

Harrington’s published writings include “The Prisoners” (1954), a realistic novel about the struggle to maintain personal dignity and integrity under the dehumanizing effects of penal conditions; several short stories; and three novels issued under the pseudonym Gilbert Terrell.

Harrington died in 1997.

In writing the biography, the first book on Harrington, Hamblin utilized archival materials at the University of Mississippi and Harrington’s private papers, including two unpublished novels, made available by Harrington’s daughter, Donna Vinson.

Hamblin borrows the title of the biography from one of Harrington’s essays, “Living in Mississippi,” which describes Harrington’s ambivalent feelings about being a liberal in a conservative and often reactionary state and region that he dearly loved.

Dr. Robert Hamblin

Hamblin is professor emeritus of English and founding director of the Center for Faulkner Studies at Southeast. He is the author or editor of 30 books, including 18 scholarly volumes, six books of poetry, four biographies and two family memoirs. His most recent books are “Myself and the World; A Biography of William Faulkner,” “Faulkner and Warren” and “Dogwood Winter and Others Seasons.”