Frank Melton spent his first night as mayor of Jackson, Miss. cruising the city’s poorest neighborhoods in black SWAT-style fatigues with a semiautomatic handgun strapped to the front holster of his bulletproof vest, conducting impromptu traffic stops. The year was 2005, and while Melton’s behavior may have raised an eyebrow in other cities, it was received in the long-troubled capital of the nation’s poorest state as a sign that the new mayor — the second African American to lead the majority black city — was attuned to the public safety concerns of his beleaguered constituents. Over the next four years, that reasoning would unravel as Melton’s administration fell violently apart. In 2009, hours after polls closed on a losing reelection bid and days before he was scheduled to be federally tried for civil rights violations, Melton suffered a fatal heart attack. While the dramatic denouement made national headlines, little thought was given to how or why Melton’s disastrous term unfolded the way it did. With an eye to the past and future as well as the current national political landscape, journalist Ingrid Norton offers a complete account of racialized politics, economics and personality relevant to anyone concerned about the future of America’s urban leadership.
- Like many cities in the U.S., Jackson has struggled in its transition from a white-dominated power structure to a more representative system. Read the latest fascinating chapter.
- Gain insights into a mayorship gone wrong — and learn why it matters.
- Get to know a new class of leaders emerging as southern cities undergo historic shifts.