Murder in Mississippi (painting)

Murder in Mississippi, as named by the artist, is a 1965 painting by Norman Rockwell which was commissioned for an article entitled "Southern Justice" in the American magazine Look. The painting depicts the 1964 murders of civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, and was intended to illustrate an article written on the murders by civil rights attorney Charles Morgan Jr..[1] The painting is oil on canvas 53 x 42 inches (134.5 X 106.5cm), and also has a pencil on board study of the same title.[2]

Murder in Mississippi
ArtistNorman Rockwell
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions134.5 cm × 106.5 cm (53 in × 42 in)
LocationNorman Rockwell Museum

Development of the paintingEdit

Murder in Mississippi (study) a.k.a. Southern Justice
ArtistNorman Rockwell
MediumOil on board
Dimensions (15" in × 12¾" in)
LocationNorman Rockwell Museum

Originally Murder in Mississippi was to fill two pages; with the victims on left page and the murderers, Deputy Price and the klansmen, on the right page. Pencil sketches were made for both panels. A preparatory study in black and white shows the complete horizontal picture with Price pointing a pistol, and several klansmen with sticks (incorrectly, as they were later found to have had rifles). On the bottom left hand corner another klansman is featured – making the three young men surrounded. However when reduced to the left page only, the murderers on both sides of the young men were removed, leaving only the shadows cast from the group on the right.

The left panel was submitted as a rough oil color sketch to Look magazine's art director Allen Hurlburt. Based on the oil sketch Look gave Rockwell the okay to proceed and finish the painting. However later when Hurlburt received the finished painting he decided that the more impressionistic sketch suited the article better and the finished painting was not published.[3] This was the only time that one of Rockwell's sketches was published instead of his finished painting. Rockwell's oil sketch had only taken an hour, though Rockwell himself later admitted that by the time he finished the final painting, "all the anger that was in the sketch had gone out of it."[4]

The oil sketch for Murder in Mississippi is also known as Southern Justice after the title of the article where it appeared instead of the finished painting on June 29, 1965.[5] The sketch is oil on board, 15" x 12¾", and, like the painting, is held in the permanent collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Casey Nelson Blake, The Arts of Democracy: Art, Public Culture, and the State 2007- Page 66 "... explicitly political statements, as in the powerful civil rights illustrations commissioned for Look magazine (The Problem We All Live With, January 14, 1964, and Southern Justice, June 29, 1965, accompanying attorney Charles Morgan Jr.."
  2. ^ Maureen Hart Hennessey, Judy L. Larson Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People 1999- Page 196 Southern Justice ( Murder in Mississippi ) , 1965 Unpublished Oil on canvas , 53 x ...
  3. ^ Michael Sletcher New England 2004- Page 56 In Southern Justice (1965), which also appeared in Look, he depicted the murders of Andrew Goodman, Michael ..."
  4. ^
  5. ^ Roger Chapman Culture Wars: An Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices 2010 p478 "The following year, the magazine published Southern Justice (which Rockwell called Murder in Mississippi)"