This article uses a comparative analysis of immigrant rights movements in Mississippi and Alabama to examine racial formation as a cultural consequence of mobilization. Drawing on archival, media, and interview data, we demonstrate that the Mississippi movement fueled shifts in public racial discourse beyond the movement itself; however, the Alabama movement engendered no such changes, despite its efforts. These outcomes emerged despite the movements’ common origins and the states’ similar political and racial contexts. We trace these outcomes to the guiding racial orientations of each movement. While Mississippi organizers embraced an interracialist organizing approach, Alabama organizers grounded their work in an assimilationist approach. These orientations led the movements to develop different racial framings and different networks, creating pathways of broader cultural influence for the Mississippi movement and closing off pathways in Alabama. These findings speak to enduring questions about movements’ cultural impacts and about the mechanisms driving racial formation.

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