W. Ralph Eubanks, an editor, publisher, and writer based in Washington, D.C., was born on 25 June 1957 in Collins, Mississippi. His father, Warren Ralph Eubanks, was employed by the Farmers Home Administration, and his mother, Lucille Richardson Eubanks, worked as a schoolteacher. Eubanks attended segregated schools in Mount Olive and Collins from 1963 until 1970, when he became one of the first African American students to integrate the Mount Olive school district. Upon graduating from high school in 1974 he enrolled at the University of Mississippi, where he received degrees in psychology and English literature in 1978. He went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Michigan the following year.
In his first book, Ever Is a Long Time (2003), Eubanks described his upbringing on a farm near Mount Olive. His parents, graduates of Tuskegee College and members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, shielded him and his three sisters from much of the racism and violence of the period. However, sit-ins, church burnings, and the assassinations of Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. served as reminders of the ongoing tensions. Days before Eubanks was born, Mississippi’s governor, James P. Coleman, had been asked whether Mississippi’s public schools would ever be integrated. He responded, “Well, ever is a long time. . . . I would say that a baby born in Mississippi today will never live long enough to see an integrated school.” Twelve years later, Eubanks’s mother reminded him and his sisters of Coleman’s words on their first day of classes at the newly integrated Mount Olive High School. While at the school, Eubanks began to read books by southern authors, including Mississippians William Faulkner and Eudora Welty, that helped him obtain a more nuanced understanding of the South and inspired him to pursue writing as a career.
Although primarily a memoir, Ever Is a Long Time also provides a history of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission (1956–73), a publicly funded agency that attempted to maintain white supremacy in the state by spying on citizens who favored integration. When the commission’s files on eighty-seven thousand Mississippians were declassified in 1998, Eubanks learned that his parents had been under surveillance by the largest state-run spy network in American history. Eubanks spent three years conducting research in an attempt to understand why his parents had generated commission files, scouring through previously classified documents and interviewing former commission member Horace Harned, former Klansman and superintendent of education Denson Lott, and civil rights activist Ed King.
Eubanks’s second book, The House at the End of the Road (2009), tells the story of the interracial marriage of his maternal grandparents, James Morgan Richardson and Edna Howell Richardson. After marrying in 1914, Jim, a white man, and Edna, a light-skinned black woman, made their home in the largely independent black community of Prestwick, Alabama. They raised their children, designated white on their birth certificates, to acknowledge their mixed-race background, leading several white members of the Richardson family to disown the black members of the family and ultimately to his grandparents’ burials in separate cemeteries. Eubanks intertwines this narrative with a history of interracial marriages and the laws that affected these relationships. He also explores racial identity in American history, noting how the socially and culturally constructed category of race means very little to his interracial children and their generation. Eubanks credits the change to the American population’s increasingly multiracial makeup as well as to Jim and Edna Richardson and other couples who chose to transcend the racial possibilities of their time.
Eubanks has also written articles for numerous publications and is a contributor to National Public Radio. He has worked as an editor for most of his career, holding positions at the American Geophysical Union, the American Psychological Association, and Taylor and Francis USA. From 1995 to 2013 he served as the director of publishing at the Library of Congress. From 2013 to 2014 he served as editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review. He received a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship and has been a fellow at the New America Foundation. Eubanks was the Eudora Welty Visiting Scholar in Southern Studies at Millsaps College in Jackson and a visiting professor at the University of Mississippi in 2017 and 2018. He is married to Colleen Delaney, and they have three children.
- W. Ralph Eubanks, Ever Is A Long Time: A Journey into Mississippi’s Dark Past, a Memoir (2003)
- W. Ralph Eubanks, in Beyond the Archives: Research as a Lived Process, ed. Gesa E. Kirsch and Liz Rohan (2008)
- W. Ralph Eubanks, The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South (2009)