Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Degree Level





Michael Pierce

Committee Member

Patrick Williams

Second Committee Member

Caree Banton


Arkansas, Boycott, Marianna


The Marianna Boycott was a thirteen month long civil rights boycott that took place in the Arkansas Delta town of Marianna from 1971 to 1972. The event shut down over twenty-five business, inflicted millions of dollars in economic damage, and forced people living in Lee County to address racial tensions that had been building for decades. This paper examines the Marianna Boycott as an expression of post-Civil Rights Movement conflict over what the various legislative victories of the 1960s meant for Black people in the rural south. This paper posits that while the Civil Rights laws of the era were indeed important wins for African Americans, they did not change the day-to-day poverty and discrimination many still endured in the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. Rather, it was the anti-poverty initiatives of the Great Society that represented the true challenge to White political and economic control in the rural south. Using newspaper articles, interviews, census records, and agricultural statistics, this work argues that the Great Society’s bottom-up approach to fighting poverty enabled African Americans in Lee County Arkansas to mount a real challenge to the powerful Whites that controlled the jobs and political offices of their town. The grants, volunteers, and media attention that came with the federal dollars gave African Americans in Marianna the foundation upon which to build a movement to have a voice in the future of their county. Furthermore, this study concludes that the oft maligned War on Poverty was not a waste of money, as some claim, but was in fact remarkably successful in giving the poor a voice. The conflicts that arose from these initiatives, such as the Marianna Boycott, are evidence of the efficacy of Great Society programs, rather than their abuse.