Quitman County was founded by Leopold Marks, a German Jewish immigrant. He was able to overcome anti-Jewish prejudice in order to purchase a great deal of land in the area. At the time, the area was part of Tunica County, where Marks was elected a state legislator. He eventually was able to pass a bill that created what is now known as Quitman County. The county seat, Marks, MS, was named after him. The town ever since has been known for its racial diversity. By the year 1960, 1600 black people were registered to vote in Quitman County, which was a remarkable number for the time. A report from the Sovereignty Commission blamed an unidentified black voter education program in North Quitman County. However, due to the county’s voter suppression through education tests, only 60 black people were actually able to vote at the time. In 1968, Martin Luther King visited Marks, MS. Upon seeing the incredible economic disparity and hunger of the town and surrounding county, he decided to start his Poor People’s Campaign out of the city. The plan for the Poor People’s Campaign was for caravans of poor Americans of all races to embark on a pilgrimage to Washington to protest economic disparity. One of nine caravans, called the Mule Train, left from Marks, MS on May 13th, 1968 and arrived in Washington on June 13th. Leaving Marks, members of the caravan were harassed by local white citizens. Today, Quitman County is 69.2% black, 29.4% white, .2% Native American, .2% Asian, and 1% mixed race. .8% of the population identifies as Hispanic and/or Latino.
Mississippi Sovereignty Commission Files, Mississippi Department of Archives and History
Quitman County Site
Quitman County Genealogy & History Network
Lackey, Hilliard L. Marks, Martin, and the Mule Train. Jackson, Miss.: Town Square Books, Inc., 1998. Print.
Freeman, Roland L., and David B. Levine. The Mule Train: A Journey of Hope Remembered. Nashville, Tenn.: Rutledge Hill Press, 1998. Print.
McKnight, Gerald. The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People’s Campaign. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1998. Print.
Crosby, Emilye. Civil Rights History from the Ground Up: Local Struggles, a National Movement. Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 2011. Print.
Turitz, Leo, and Evelyn Turitz. Jews in Early Mississippi. 2nd ed. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995. Print.