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Corinth Contraband Camp

After the Union took control of Corinth in 1962, the town became a haven for thousands of runaway slaves who sought freedom and protection. Union General Grenville Dodge enlisted the escaped slaves as teamsters, cooks, laborers, and armed security guards, which led to the formation of the 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment of African Descent with about 1,000 men. Under the supervision of Chaplain James M. Alexander, the camp resembled a small town with a commissary, hospital, church, an American Missionary Association School, frame and log houses, and named streets. The camp allowed former slaves to create a life of their own, gain work and an education, and work toward the struggle for equality. Today, the site is a national park called the Corinth Contraband Camp. The park preserves and commemorates the events that change the lives of so many freedmen during and after the war. Bronze figures throughout the camp depict the lives of people who were considered “contraband” of war.


Sources:

Cam Walker, “Corinth: The Story of a Contraband Camp,” Corinth Information Database, 1996, http://mlsandy.home.tsixroads.com/Corinth_MLSANDY/histcw6.html

“Corinth Contraband Camp,” National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/shil/planyourvisit/contrabandcamp.htm.

“Corinth, Mississippi: Attractions,” Corinth Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureauhttp://www.corinth.net/attractions.htm

Eddington, Grady (also Edding, Grady)

Grady Eddington: Grady Eddington was the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Alcorn County, Mississippi. The years of his leadership are unknown, but the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission mentions him as president in 1969. In the early 1960s, the NAACP was not very active and county officials believed that the organization had gone underground, but by 1969 the NAACP had experienced a revival. 

Racial tensions ran high when an officer shot an African-American murder suspect named Robert Cummings on May 8, 1969. The officers claimed that Cummings swung at them with an ice pick and that they found evidence linking him to the murder. Eddington organized and led a meeting of about two hundred African Americans on the night of the murder. Rumors spread among the white community that trouble was possible and that Charles Evers intended to visit Corinth. On May 21, Eddington asked to meet with Chief Murray, but later postponed the meeting. No further reports have been found regarding Eddington. 

Sources:

“Sovereignty Commission Online: Alcorn County,” Mississippi Department of Archives and Historyhttp://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/sovcom/imagelisting.php?foldercheckbox%5b%5d=506%7c2%7c137%7c%7c0

The Murder of William Roy Prather

On November 1, 1959, whites killed fifteen-year-old African-American William Roy Prather in Corinth. Whites called it a “Halloween prank,” but the African-American community considered it a hate crime. One of the eight youths involved was indicted on manslaughtercharges, but not convicted. As of November 2011, the case was still open under FBI investigation.


Sources:

Arkansas Delta Truth and Justice Center, “Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs,” Civil Rights Movement Veterans, accessed 6 September 2012, http://www.crmvet.org/mem/msmartyr.htm.

Jerry Mitchell, “Two-Thirds of 124 Civil Rights Cold Cases Closed,” Clarion Ledger, 7 November 2011, http://blogs.clarionledger.com/jmitchell/2011/11/07/only-third-of-124-civil-rights-cold-cases-still-open/.

Myrlie Evers, For Us the Living, Oxford, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1967, 24-25, 205.

“William Roy Prather,” Civil Rights and Restorative Justice, 2012, http://nuweb9.neu.edu/civilrights/william-roy-prather/.

Cayton, Horace R.

Horace R. Cayton (1859-1940): An African-American journalist and politician, Cayton was born on a Mississippi plantation in 1859 and graduated from Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University) in the early 1880s. He moved to Seattle, Washington, worked as a journalist, and eventually began the Seattle Republican in 1894. The Seattle Republican exposed corruption, racial injustice, and Southern lynching to a black and white audience. He also became involved in politics and was one of the first blacks to serve on the county and state delegations in Seattle. When blacks joined the local Republican Party in larger numbers in the early 1900s, white prejudice grew and Cayton lost both political power and his newspaper. His son, Horace R. Cayton, Jr., became a preeminent sociologist on the plight of urban African Americans. 

Sources:

“Horace R. Cayton,” Wikipedia, 21 August 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horace_R._Cayton

Lisa S. Weitzman, “Horace Cayton,” Gale Contemporary Black Biographyhttp://www.answers.com/topic/horace-cayton

Alcorn State University

Alcorn State University is a historically black university located near Lorman, Mississippi. Founded in 1871 by the Reconstruction era legislature, the university was the first black land grant college in the United States and provided higher education for freedmen. Medgar Evers, the first NAACP field secretary, graduated from Alcorn State University in 1948. In addition, the school boasts alumni who were and are leaders in civil rights, business, medicine, and politics including Alex Haley, Horace R. Cayton Sr., Gwen Belton, Katie G. Dorsett, and Joseph Edison Walker. When protests erupted on Alcorn’s campus in the 1960s, the presidents had to shut the demonstrations down for fear of losing their jobs, since the segregationist state legislature controlled the school.

Sources:

“Alcorn State University,” Wikipedia, 8 August 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcorn_State_University

Josephine M. Posey, Against Great Odds: The History of Alcorn State, University Press of Mississippi, 1994. 

Josephine M. Posey, “About Alcorn: Brief History,” Alcorn State Universityhttp://www.alcorn.edu/about/default.aspx?id=559

Black History Museum of Corinth

Located in the former residence of William Dakota and Adrienne Combs Webb, the home was donated to the city Corinth in 1990.  Adrienne Combs Webb (1896-1987) was the daughter of J. B. Combs, principal of the Colored School. The African-American couple’s home was renovated and used as a shelter for families who experienced tragic losses. In 2003, the process of turning the home into a museum was set in motion. The museum’s goals are to identify, preserve, house, and promote historic properties and artifacts that reflect African American heritage, as well as tell the stories of black experiences in Corinth and the surrounding community. Exhibits include religion, education, and civil rights displays, in addition to personal collections of patrons. 

Sources: 

“About Corinth,” Corinth Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureauhttp://www.corinth.net/about.htm

“Immerse Yourself in Our History: Black History Museum of Corinth,” Corinth Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, http://www.corinth.net/BlackHistoryMuseum.htm

Turner Publishing Company, Alcorn County, Mississippi: 1870-2002, November 25, 2002.

Haley, Alex

Alex Haley (1921-1992): African-American writer Alex Haley is best known as the author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family and the co-author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Haley attended Alcorn State University beginning at age fifteen and withdrew two years later. At age eighteen, he began serving in the Coast Guard and received many awards and decorations by the time he retired twenty years later. He began his writing career soon thereafter. He conducted the first Playboy magazine interview in 1962. The interview with Miles Davis included candid reflections on racism. He also interviewed Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jim Brown, Johnny Carson, and Quincy Jones. He completed Malcolm X’s memoir just weeks before Malcolm X was assassinated in February 1965. In 1976, Haley published Roots: The Saga of an American Family, a novel based on his family’s history, which was later turned into a television miniseries. 

Sources:

Eric Pace, “Alex Haley, 70, Author of ‘Roots,’ Dies,” The New York Times, 11 February 1992, http://www.nytimes.com/1992/02/11/books/alex-haley-70-author-of-roots-dies.html.

Evers, Medgar

Medgar Evers (1925-1963): Born in Decatur, Mississippi, Evers enrolled at Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University) in 1948. He majored in business administration, was on the debate team, played football, ran track, sang in the school choir, and served as president of his junior class. Who’s Who in American Colleges included Evers for his accomplishments. In 1951, he married classmate Myrlie Beasley and received his bachelor’s degree the next year. After graduation, he moved out of Alcorn County and became involved in civil rights activism. For Evers’ full biography, see the entry for Newton County.

Sources:

Padgett, John B. “Medgar Evers.” The Mississippi Writers Page, University of Mississippi. 2008. Accessed: 5 Sep 2012. http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/evers_medgar/index.html

Prather, William Roy

William Roy Prather (c. 1944-1959): Fifteen-year-old African-American William Roy Prather was killed in Corinth in what whites called a “Halloween prank” on November 1, 1959. One of the eight youths involved was indicted on manslaughter charges, but not convicted. As of November 2011, the case was still open under FBI investigation.

Sources:

Arkansas Delta Truth and Justice Center, “Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs,” Civil Rights Movement Veterans, accessed 6 September 2012, http://www.crmvet.org/mem/msmartyr.htm.

Jerry Mitchell, “Two-Thirds of 124 Civil Rights Cold Cases Closed,” Clarion Ledger, 7 November 2011, http://blogs.clarionledger.com/jmitchell/2011/11/07/only-third-of-124-civil-rights-cold-cases-still-open/.

Myrlie Evers, For Us the Living, Oxford, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1967, 24-25, 205. 

“William Roy Prather,” Civil Rights and Restorative Justice, 2012, http://nuweb9.neu.edu/civilrights/william-roy-prather/.