Sharkey

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Panther Burn Plantation

The black church inside Panther Burn Plantation served as a meeting place for many civil rights organizers, including the COFO, in and around Sharkey County.

Source:
Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, Mississippi Department of Archives & History

Lillie Willis and Sidney Alexander v. Joe Carson et al.

(1966) In February 1966, Lillie Willis and Sidney Alexander, natives of Sharkey County, filed suit alleging discrimination based on race and gender in the selection of jury members. Specifically, they called into question the explicit exclusion of women from juries written into statute and the ability of county boards of supervisors to appoint jury members based on “good moral character,”systematically ensuring juries were all-white. The U.S. District Court with jurisdiction ruled in favor of the defendant on March 19, 1971.

Sources:

“Willis v. Carson.”Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute Archives: The Bancroft Library. University of California at Berkeley. http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/meiklejohn/meik-12_1/meik-12_1-4.html#515.2

“Lillie Willis and Sidney Alexander, Plaintiffs, v. Joe Carson et al., Defendants.”Accessed through LexisNexis on September 7, 2007.

Sharkey Underground

Newspaper published in Sharkey County beginning in the 1960s to cover civil rights issues and news.

Rosenthal, Sam

Sam Rosenthal was the Jewish mayor of Rolling Fork, MS, county seat of Sharkey County. He served uncontested from 1924 to 1969. As mayor, he modernized the town’s electricity and improved the library and school systems.

Sources:
Institute of Southern Jewish Life

NCC in Sharkey County

The NCC is a confederation of churches of various denominations that took part in lobbying Congress for civil rights reforms in the 1960s and ’70s. In Mississippi, the NCC created the Delta Ministry, which played an important role in the lives of Sharkey and Issaquena County activists and sharecroppers. The NCC also was active in establishing prison ministries to investigate unlawful arrests and penitentiary conditions.

Sources:

“National Council of Churches.”http://home.wlu.edu/~connerm/AfAmStudies/Contemporary%20Culture%20Project/Religion&Culture/ncc.html

Delta Ministry

The Delta Ministry was formed by the NCC (National Council of Churches) in 1964 to hold grassroots training sessions for sharecroppers on the importance of voting, political activism, and community communication. In Sharkey County and throughout the Delta, the Delta Ministry fought for Head Start programs, increased healthcare quality, and affordable housing. The Delta Ministry is often credited with carrying on the fight for social justice following COFOs (Council of Federated Organizations) collapse and decreased activism from SNCC and other rights-oriented organizations.

Sources:

“Divine Agitators: The Delta Ministry and Civil Rights in Mississippi.”Mark Newman. University of Georgia Press. 2004.

Alexander, Sidney

Sidney Alexander and his wife Fanny were natives of Sharkey County and rights activists. In addition to serving as an administrator for anti-poverty programs, Alexander was active in voter registration efforts and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

In 1967, Alexander was a co-plaintiff in the Willis v. Carson suit. Willis v. Carson challenged the state of Mississippi’s systematic measures designed to prevent women and African-Americans from serving on juries.

Sources:

“Lillie Willis and Sidney Alexander, Plaintiffs, v. Joe Carson et al., Defendants.”Accessed through LexisNexis on September 7, 2007.

“Sidney Alexander.”Ralph J. Bunche Oral History Collection. Howard University. http://www.founders.howard.edu/moorland-spingarn/civila-c.html

“Willis v. Carson.”Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute Archives: The Bancroft Library. University of California at Berkeley. http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/meiklejohn/meik-12_1/meik-12_1-4.html#515.2

Freedom Schools in Sharkey County

Freedom Schools were established by rights activists to provide high quality educators to underserved areas. In Sharkey and Issaquena Counties, Freedom Schools were started in the mid-1960s to ensure students who were suspended for wearing pro-SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) paraphernalia still had the opportunity to attend public school.

Sources:

“Council of Federated Organizations (COFO).”King Encyclopedia.
http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/about_king/encyclopedia/cofo.htm

“An Oral History with Honorable Unita Blackwell.”Civil Rights in Mississippi: Digital Archive. 1977.
http://www.lib.usm.edu/%7Espcol/crda/oh/blackwell.htm

“Barfootin’.”Unita Blackwell and JoAnne Prichard Morris. Crown Publishers. 2006.

“From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice.”Thomas F. Jackson. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2006.

“National Council of Churches.”http://home.wlu.edu/~connerm/AfAmStudies/Contemporary%20Culture%20Projec…

“Divine Agitators: The Delta Ministry and Civil Rights in Mississippi.”Mark Newman. University of Georgia Press. 2004.

“Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi.”John Dittmer. University of Illinois Press. 1994.

“The Issaquena Genealogy and History Project: W.E. Mollison.”http://www.rootsweb.com/~msissaq2/mollison.html

“An Oral History with Mrs. Minnie Ripley.”Civil Rights in Mississippi: Digital Archive. 1979. http://anna.lib.usm.edu/%7Espcol/crda/oh/ohripleymp.html

“SNCC: 1960-1966.”
http://www.ibiblio.org/sncc/

McInnis, Hattie V.J.

McInnis was the first music teacher of Leontyne Price and the first minority columnist for the Laurel Leader-Call (then known as the Laurel Daily Leader). She and her husband owned a funeral parlor on Meridian Avenue in northeast Laurel. Her weekly column “News for the Colored Reader”ranged from calendars of social events to essays critical of the treatment of the black community. “In a 1950 entry, she reacted to racist demagogues in the political arena: ‘The time has come for candidates to solicit votes on their own good merits, not by arousing prejudice, hatred, or ill-feelings toward another candidate or race group. We do not appreciate anyone using us (the black community) as an open wedge to their office holding.'”In another article she called for equal pay for minority teachers, as well as equal treatment in other areas. “We all want better pay for our teachers, sewage and good streets for our home, decent consideration in our courts and lights and fewer open ditche[s] in our neighborhood. We want all these things because we help pay for them.” McInnis died in 1976 and was buried in the Nora Davis Cemetery.

Sources:

Laurel Remembrances by Cleveland Payne published in 1996.