Hinds – Organizations

The Tougaloo Nine

In 1961, nine African American students who were members of the Tougaloo NAACP Youth Council participated in Mississippi’s first civil rights “read-in”at the whites-only Jackson Municipal Public Library. On March 27, 1961, the Tougaloo Nine, four females and five males, entered the segregated main branch of the municipal library in search of source material for a class assignment. When the students took seats and began reading, a library staff member called the police. After refusing orders by the police chief to leave the library, the Tougaloo Nine were arrested. The read-in drew support from students at Jackson and Tougaloo colleges as well as Millsaps, a predominantly White college in Jackson. The Tougaloo Nine were charged and convicted of breach-of-peace. Each of them was fined $100 and given a 30-day suspended sentence.

Sources:

“Civil Rights Driving Tour of Hinds County”produced by the Associated Press, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Development Authority (Tourism Division).

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Founded in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy and often called the “President’s Committee,”the Lawyers’ Committee was a group of volunteer attorneys from across the country who came to the state to represent persons who could not obtain or afford legal services in civil rights cases. When the committee started its work, there were only three civil rights attorneys in Mississippi to handle the hundreds of cases that were clogging the court system. When the President’s Committee closed its Mississippi office in 1985, nearly 200 African American attorneys were practicing in the state. The state offices of the National Lawyers’ Guild, the Lawyers’ Constitutional Defense Committee (LCDC) of the American Civil Liberties Union, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund were in Hinds County.

Sources:

“Civil Rights Driving Tour of Hinds County”produced by the Associated Press, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Development Authority (Tourism Division).

The White Citizens’ Council

        The White Citizens’ Council was for a time the largest and most influential white supremacist organization in Mississippi, deeply involved in seemingly all aspects of state and local affairs.   The organization, which originated in the small Mississippi Delta town of Indianola, had been active in the state for nearly ten years before the KKK’s resurgence in 1963. Fourteen white Mississippians attended the initial meeting with the goal of forming a group in response to the (LINK) National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) (LINK) which they believed was spreading a Communist agenda. Whites were fearful of the potential impact that the (LINK) Brown v. Board (1954) (LINK) decision would have on their long celebrated southern way of life so they sought to maintain segregation at all costs. The Council imposed economic sanctions, rather than the violent tactics used by the Klan, on anyone who actively pushed for integration and racial justice. African Americans were considered to be a greater threat to white supremacy in communities where they were a well represented segment of the population, and when there was significant mobilization around the civil rights struggle, and correspondingly Citizens’ Council membership tended to be highest in those environments.

       Comprised of businessmen, professionals, and governmental officials, the Councils publicly renounced violence and maintained that its ultimate goal of resisting integration could be achieved through “legal” means. Although both Klan and Citizens’ Council members both rejected any attempt at integration, members of the Citizens’ Council associated the Klan and reactive organizations like it with lower class violence and social disorder. The Citizens’ Council, in contrast, trumpeted that they were made up of “reliable,” white male citizens, who organized for the purpose of maintaining white racial integrity. They exerted a great deal of influence in economic, social and political spheres across the state, using subtle but sophisticated tactics of economic intimidation and pressure to scare civil rights activists into submission. The Council would pay local newspapers to publicly list the names of persons who signed petitions for Civil Rights initiatives, such as desegregated schools. They punished people who supported integration by firing workers, and denying mortgages and loans to farmers and activists.

  The Council spread its anti integration message through mass mailings and speeches in an effort to galvanize supporters and to recruit new members. In Jackson, the Citizen’s Council headquarters was down the street from City Hall and their office was across the street from the governor’s mansion. The Council targeted middle class white neighborhoods and carried out “Freedom of Choice” surveys in an attempt to gauge local opinion on the topic of segregation in schools and residential areas around the city. Given the racial climate at the time, such campaigns functioned as a means of recruiting new members since being neutral or in support of integration was not favorable to the Council’s efforts. In addition, the Council created pamphlets, distributed its own newspaper, (LINK) The Citizens’ Council (LINK), as well as a widely heard radio program and television broadcast, the Citizens’ Council Forum, which was paid for by state funds such as those provided by the (LINK) Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission (LINK).

Sources: Andrews, Kenneth. “Movement-Countermovement Dynamics and Emergence of New Institutions: The Case of ‘White Flight Schools’ in Mississippi.” Social Forces, March 2002, 80 (3):911-936 University of North Carolina Press. 2002. Crespino, Joseph. In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 2007. Dittmer, John. Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1995. Katagiri, Yasuhiro. The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission: Civil Rights and States Rights. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi. 2001. McMillen, Neil R. The Citizens’ Council: Organized Resistance to the Second Reconstruction, 1954-1964. Urbana, IL:University of Illinois Press.1994

Poor People’s Corporation

This location was the third of four sites of the Poor People’s Corporation, organized in 1965 in Mississippi by SNCC and CORE workers. The Poor People’s Corporation was an early result of a change in focus of the Civil Rights Movement from confrontation to economic development. Through its headquarters here and a fund-raising office in New York City, the corporation collected financial support for enterprises providing jobs for Mississippi’s rural unemployed and underemployed.

Sources:

“Civil Rights Driving Tour of Hinds County”produced by the Associated Press, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Development Authority (Tourism Division).

Liberty House Cooperative

Originally located in the 600 block of North Farish Street, provided purchasing and marketing for 16 handcraft co-ops. In its peak year, 1969, Liberty House grossed $1.25 million. While the Liberty House store in Jackson closed in 1972, three stores remain open in New York City. In 1968, 900 North Farish Street housed the Freedom Information Service, publisher of the F.I.S. Mississippi Newsletter, and an office of the Southern Courier, a movement newspaper published in Montgomery, Alabama.

Sources:

“Civil Rights Driving Tour of Hinds County”produced by the Associated Press, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Development Authority (Tourism Division).

The Clarion-Ledger

The Clarion-Ledger is Jackson’s daily morning newspaper and the most widely circulated newspaper in Mississippi. For decades, the Clarion-Ledger and the now-defunct evening paper, the Jackson Daily News, were published by a family-owned company that supported segregation and transmitted to the Sovereignty Commission reports on the civil rights movement. The Clarion-Leger was purchased by the Gannett Corporation in 1982.

Sources:

“Civil Rights Driving Tour of Hinds County”produced by the Associated Press, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Development Authority (Tourism Division).

Republic of New Africa

The Republic of New Africa (RNA) was an African American nationalist organization that sought to secure lands in five southern states. At around sunrise on August 18, 1971, a shootout erupted during a police raid at this location, and Jackson police officer Lt. Louis Skinner was killed. Seven RNA activists were arrested here, and four others, including the RNA president, Imari Obadele, were arrested on J.R. Lynch Street. Several were sentenced to lengthy jail terms. In response, Dr. Aaron Shirley formed the Committee of Black Jacksonians for Justice, which called for calm and an end to the violence.

Sources:

“Civil Rights Driving Tour of Hinds County”produced by the Associated Press, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Development Authority (Tourism Division).

COFO Office

This small commercial building once occupied by state Senator Henry J. Kirksy was the Mississippi headquarters for the 1964 Freedom Summer Project coordinated by the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). COFO provided statewide organizational support and engaged in direct action in local communities. A small staff coordinated freedom schools, mass meetings, voter registration, and housing for the 1000-plus summer volunteers. COFO also coordinated the challenge to the all-white Mississippi delegation to the national Democratic Party’s August 1964 convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. COFO volunteers met with constant harassment from the Jackson police, who would ticket them, arrest them, and take them to jail. Activities continued here until spring of 1965.

Sources:

“Civil Rights Driving Tour of Hinds County”produced by the Associated Press, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Development Authority (Tourism Division).

Jackson Nonviolent Movement

In 1961 and 1962, the Jackson Nonviolent Movement (JNM) was an offshoot of SNCC. The group coordinated housing for the Freedom Riders, planned mass meetings at area churches, conducted voter registration and nonviolent protest workshops, and planned the 1961 picketing against the segregated Mississippi State Fair. JNM provided free literature and tapes of Martin Luther King’s speeches, sold recordings of protest music, and showed movement films at churches. The JNM newsletter, Voice of the Jackson Movement, was published at its office.

Sources:

“Civil Rights Driving Tour of Hinds County”produced by the Associated Press, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Development Authority (Tourism Division).

Medgar Evers Neighborhood Guild Community Center

In a structure developed by R.L.T. Smith, the Medgar Evers Neighborhood Guild Community Center was established by Ted Seaver, a white social worker from New England, who came to Jackson as a civil rights activist in the summers of 1964 and 1965. Through a project called Vermont in Mississippi, Seaver raised money to establish and operate a community center in Jackson to help organize for political action. The Medgar Evers Neighborhood Guild Community Center was dedicated on September 27, 1965.

Sources:

“Civil Rights Driving Tour of Hinds County”produced by the Associated Press, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Development Authority (Tourism Division).