Coahoma County

Coahoma County, founded in 1836, is located in the Mississippi Delta region and has as its county seat the city of Clarksdale.  It was in Clarksdale where much of the civil rights activity in the county was concentrated.  Coahoma County’s movement began early with the chartering of a chapter of the NAACP in 1952 by Aaron Henry, renowned civil rights activist who grew up in Clarksdale.  Perhaps the most eventful year for civil rights in Clarksdale was 1961.  In that year, black NAACP members integrated the train station and bus terminal.  This process began when three members of the NAACP Youth Council, 18-year-old Mary Jane Pigee, 16-year-old Adrian Beard, and 14-year-old Wilma Jones, walked into the whites-only train station, attempted to purchase tickets, and were arrested for breach of the peace.  Later that year, Vera Mae Pigee and Idessa Johnson, among others, sat in the whites-only waiting room of bus terminal several days in a row.  They appealed to the U.S. Department of Justice who threatened the bus terminal with a lawsuit.  The “Whites Only” signs in the terminal were then taken down.  It was also in 1961 that Aaron Henry organized a protest of merchants in Clarksdale after the mayor banned black people from participating in the Christmas parade.

Later, the town of Clarksdale saw activity during Freedom Summer.  There was a Freedom Summer community center in town, where volunteers Matthew Zwerling, Zoya Zeman, Margaret Jo Hazelton, and others worked.