(2006-2007) In May 2006 in Macon, Mississippi, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was used for the first time to allege discrimination against whites. Ike Brown, head of the Democratic Party in Noxubee County, was convicted of trying to defeat white voters and candidates with intimidation and coercion. Carl Mickens, county circuit clerk, was also named in the lawsuit and was accused of rejecting absentee ballots that were considered defective from white voters while accepting the same ballots from black voters. In Noxubee County, blacks dominate county elections, and only one white person holds office. A complaint to the Justice Department says Brown and his associates “participated in numerous racial appeals:and have criticized black citizens for supporting white candidates and for forming biracial political coalitions with white candidates.” The main plaintiff is Ricky Walker, the county prosecuting attorney who says that when he qualified to run again in 2003, Brown sought out a black lawyer to run against him. According to Walker, “he just wanted to have a person in that office that he had some control over, a black person.”
U.S. District Court judge Tom S. Lee ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 2007, stating that Noxubee County held “the most extreme case of racial exclusion seen by the (department’s) Voting Section in decades.”
In 1992, Noxubee County became the site of a possible toxic waste dump by Federated Technologies, Inc. Since Noxubee is predominantly black and has a high poverty and unemployment rate, many in the county believed that they were the victims of environmental racism. Ed Netherland of FTI had tried to establish the dump in other counties but was always met with overwhelming opposition. However, when he set his sights on Noxubee County, he received support from some and opposition on others, mainly from the environmental rights group Protect the Environment of Noxubee (PEON).
PEON was formed years before for this very reason: to discourage companies like FTI from building a toxic waste site and damaging Noxubee’s environment as well as endangering its citizens. Years before, they successfully discouraged Chem Waste, Inc. from building in Noxubee County when they too proposed to build a toxic waste site. However, making Ed Netherland and FTI leave proved to be a much harder task.
PEON and other citizens who were against the site were basically affluent, white citizens. Surprisingly, the majority of black citizens, especially convicted felon and Democratic operative Ike Brown, were in support of the toxic waste site and believed that whites were keeping jobs and economic opportunities away from them. To garner more support, FTI organized meetings in juke joints to reach the black crowds and in country clubs to reach the white crowds. FTI hired Ike Brown to act as a consultant and received more black support. FTI also received support from the local NAACP. FTI continued to receive endorsements from the Board of Aldermen, Board of Supervisors, and other officials, even officials who were against Chem Waste years before, though many speculated that they were bribed.
Later, United States Polluction Control, Inc (USPCI), one of FTI’s biggest rivals, set their sights on Noxubee County and ended up in a bidding war with FTI. However, blacks believed that the company ignored their interests so it did not receive their endorsement. Out of PEON formed the African American Committee for Environmental Justice (AAEJ), a small group of black citizens that strongly voiced their opposition to the waste dump and to the members of the NAACP who supported it. Unfortunately, it failed to make as big an impact as PEON. In January 1993, PEON and AAEJ held successful public rallies around Noxubee County that gathered a racially mixed audience. This event was obviously a sign of things to come because by June, practically all of the officials who supported Netherland were voted out of office. Ike Brown was later arrested for tax fraud.
(1969-1970) Similar to numerous other schools, Noxubee County did not immediately integrate schools after the Brown v. Board decision. After the Aug. 1968 case of Adams v. Matthews, Noxubee County was order by the federal courts to implement integration. The initial reaction to the lawsuit from the white citizens was to form a private school. During that summer, white citizens formed the Noxubee Educational Foundation which established a private academy. Attendance was low in its first year. In Summer 1969, the county received another order to finally desegregate schools. Up until this time, students of all races had the freedom of choice to attend any school they wished. Unfortunately, it did very little to achieve integration. This time, the federal courts were abandoning the “freedom of choice”policy and ordering the school board implement a satisfactory plan of desegregation. By November 1969, the federal court intervened again and ordered the board to take action by January 1970. The black schools were closed and all of the schools were consolidated. By the time the schools opened in January, enrollment at the academy greatly increased and most blacks boycotted the entire term. Only twenty-five of the 4,000 black students enrolled and attended class the first day of the new school year. By September 1970, black attendance had risen to over 3,000 while only seventy-one white students remained at the public schools. White attendance at the academy quadrupled to about 800.