(1960s) Wazir Peacock was a SNCC field secretary in Mississippi and Alabama who attended Rust College. He describes the desegregation movement and its origins in Holly Springs:
“I went to Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi. I was in college when the sit-ins started in North Carolina, so we started right there on the campus. The little theater we used to go to downtown, the movie theater, the first thing we did was boycott it, because we were sitting up there in the balcony. It was separate. The college students provided 90% of the income for that theater, but we had to sit up there in this balcony separated from the main floor. So we did that successfully. So rather than integrate it, the owner of it, he closed it. He closed it, because he wasn’t going to step out there on his own and do something. Economically, he couldn’t go on running the movie without us, so he closed it. That was our first action. We got our feet wet. That was the first thing we did.”
(5/15/1968) Following the death of Martin Luther King, citizens in Holly Springs conducted a peaceful march from Rust College, proceeding through town to the courthouse. About 500 marchers attended and were entirely peaceful. No incidents were recorded. However, the march led a Holly Springs alderman to pass a law mandating notice of such marches. The laws limited groups to twenty persons and did not allow for any singing or chanting.
Following the law, groups still gathered and marched peacefully along the streets of Holly Springs, at times in numbers approaching 200 persons. On May 15, 1968, many persons involved in a march were arrested, leading to a federal lawsuit challenging the laws limiting the ability of these peaceful marches.
The demonstrators won the case and the laws were deemed unconstitutional in Robinson v. Coopwood, 292 F. Supp. 926 (N.D. Miss. 1968).
Lynch, John Roy. Facts of Reconstruction. Neale publishing: 1913.
David M. Callejo-Perez. Southern Hospitality: Identity, Schools, and the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, 1964–1972. New York: Peter Lang, 2001.
McMurry, Linda. To Keep the Waters Troubled. Oxford Press: 1998.
Campbell, Claire T. Civil Rights Chronicle: Letters From the South. 264 pp. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.
Levine, Ellen. Freedom’s Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories. Penguin Putnam: 2000.