State Fairgrounds

For decades leading up to the 1960s, the state of Mississippi had staged two annual state fairs – one for whites only, followed by a “colored”fair. In 1961, the NAACP, its youth councils, and others demonstrated at the “colored”fair, carrying signs reading “No Jim Crow Fair for Us.”Police with dogs arrested seven protesters.

In the spring of 1963, Mayor Allen Thompson boasted that he would cage 10,000 African Americans on the fairgrounds, where two livestock exhibit buildings had been converted into prison compounds with hogwire fences. On May 31, after a mass children’s meeting at Farish Street Baptist Church, 400-500 students ages 11 to 20 were arrested and incarcerated here.

The police were unprepared to feed so many people, and accommodations were inadequate and oppressive. At night, spotlights illuminated armed sentries with rifles on their shoulders and patrolling guards with police dogs on chains.

In 1965, the fairgrounds were again used as a detention center after the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) staged a mass march to the legislature protesting the exclusion of African American candidates from the electoral process.

Sources:

“Civil Rights Driving Tour of Hinds County”produced by the Associated Press, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Development Authority (Tourism Division).