Newspaper Clippings: Taborian Hospital

As you may recall from Monday’s post, I mentioned that the same African American architectural firm that designed the Carnegie building at Mississippi Industrial College, McKissack & McKissack, also designed the Taborian Hospital in Mound Bayou, opened in 1942.

The Taborian Hospital was one of only two African American hospitals in the state during the first half of the 20th century. Operated by a fraternal organization, the International Order of twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor, the hospital provided bare-bones but professional health care, and also served as a training ground for health professionals in the African American community and played a role in the Civil Rights movement.

As luck would have it, I found and snatched up an old postcard of the hospital a month or so ago, and then as I was searching for something else in the early 1940s Cleveland newspaper, the Bolivar County News, I came across an article about the Taborians and the hospital just after its opening. Part history of the Order, part patriotic assurances, part plea for donations, the articledated December 3, 1942 and apparently submitted by someone associated with the Taborians–is a vivid depiction of the difficult and tenuous place occupied by even professional and upwardly mobile African Americans in 1940s Mississippi.


Taborian Hospital At Mound Bayou Does Good Work


Only Two Negro Owned And Operated Hospitals In Mississippi


The Taborian Hospital at Mound Bayou is sponsored by the Knights and Daughters of Tabor, a fraternal order of purely Negro origin. This Order was founded in 1872–seventy years ago in Inedpendence, Missouri. The founder, Reverend Moses Dickson, was a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and a native of the state of Ohio.

The full name of this fraternal order is, International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor. It is a co-incident that this organization was formed in a town by the name of Independence, because it is designed to teach Negroes the art of co-operation as a means of promoting self-help through encouraging initiative in essential enterprises.

It is significant that the Order of Twelve Knights and Daughters of Tabor came into being just nine years after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation and thus had its beginning in the very morning of Negro freedom.

It was the purpose of the founder that the Order of Twelve should serve as a sort of school in which Negroes may be taught the arts of civilization through organized social contact and co-operation. It is more than a mere custodian of weird legends and peculiar signs and ceremonies. It seeks to meet the most urgent needs of an under-privileged struggling people. The simple philosophy of the founder was that “What one man cannot accomplish, many men, unified, can.” Through organized effort our individual powers become a tower of strength by which the greatest good may be wrought for the group.

The primary mission of Tabor is to bring direct relief to the sick, administer to the distressed and teach the beauty of Christian character by precept and example.

Tabor is the name of a biblical mountain in Galilee and the story of its significance will be found in the fourth chapter of the book of Judges.

This Order is exclusively racial in its membership but from the beginning has been one hundred percent American in its functions. It is founded upon principles of democracy and preaches no other gospel and fights to maintain no other way of life.

The Knights and Daughters of Tabor was organized in the state of Mississippi on March 13, 1889–more than fifty-three years ago. Through depressions, floods, wars and economic disorders, many difficulties have been encountered but by persistent faith and dauntless determination Tabor has marched on without halting step.

We operate under the supervision of the state Insurance Commission and have striven to prove our worthiness as a Mississippi institution. The Order is assigned the task of building within its membership a racial consciousness and confidence and bring about through its organized activities inter-racial goodwill. Members are taught to be law-abiding citizens and to respond with becoming loyalty to every call of the Government. Our order in Mississippi has purchased $12,500 in War Bonds during the present year.

The Taborian Hospital at Mound Bayou is our chief project and perhaps meets the greatest need of Negroes in the state. It is revealed by official statistics that the Negro population of Mississippi is more than one million and that the Afro Hospital in Yazoo City and the Taborian Hospital in Mound Bayour are the only two institutions of health, with ample hospital facilities and equipment, owned and operated by the race. It is further revealed that there is only seven-tenths of a hospital bed for each thousand of Negroes in the state. We have therefore entered the field of hospitalizations to bring some measure of relief to this very unfortunate situation. The enormous death rate among colored people is largely accounted for in the shortage of ample hospital facilities.

We have been brought to realize that the cost to maintain and operate properly this institution of health is quite heavy to be carried by a low income group.

Sufficient finances to meet all requirements is our present problem.

Categories: African American History, Civil Rights, Hospitals/Medical, Mound Bayou

11 replies

  1. The Mound Bayou Health Center has a similar function and history and was developed during the 60s. It was based in part on a model for community health care owned and run by the community itself. It was modeled after similar community-run health care centers in South Africa–whose history parallels that of the south in many ways.


  2. From the Journal of the National Medical Association, July, 1973:

    Click to access jnma00494-0083.pdf

    “…The Taborian Hospital organization was, in fact, a prepaid capitation program. The members paid a small fee which provided in return out-patient care in addition to 30 days per year of hospitalization. The services included medical care, drugs surgical care, x-ray and laboratory services. Some added income was provided by financial drives among organization members two or three times yearly and by payment from Bolivar County of $100 per month to take care of all county nonmember patients. Today, these are the elements of what we refer to as health maintenance organizations…”


  3. Black fraternal organizations like the KDT also provided burial insurance, especially in the 19-teens and 20s. Hortense Powdermaker describes the KDT in Indianola in her book _After Freedom_ (pg 122-123). I assume you can find plenty of the KDT headstones in Mississippi cemeteries. Here is an example of one in a Lake Village, AR cemetery:

    The KDT had their HQ in Little Rock beginning about 1901. Their 1915 Taborian Hall is still standing in downtown LR and has been on the National Register since ~1979. It now holds the AR Flag & Banner Company:

    The upstairs long functioned as a ballroom:

    The Taborian Hospital is so interesting because it lasts for so long into the 20th century, probably because it was in Mound Bayou. The KDT’s insurance dept was purchased by Standard Life in 1926; the latest headstone in AR I’ve seen is from 1925; the Arkansas group files for receivership in 1930 and surfaces as a fraternal organization as late as 1951. A great source on this subject (including the Taborian Hospital) is David Beito’s _From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967_


  4. Thanks to Susan, Belinda, and Blake for helping fill in and flesh out this interesting story. I’ve had Beito’s book on my list of things to read, but maybe I need to move it up on the list. The Taborians and fraternal groups like them are a fascinating social phenomenon. Thanks for that gravestone picture too, Blake–very cool and I’ll keep my eyes out. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one, but maybe I have and just didn’t notice what I was looking at. Surely there must be a bunch around Mississippi.


  5. My Great-Grandmother was in this Order of the Knights and Daughters of Tabor.The stone building on the coner of Dent and Walthall was built by the Knights and Daughters. I was a child when that building was built. It still stands there today.I would like to know more about the Knights and Daughters of Tabor. In that community there were AkA’s, Masons and Order of the Eastern Star. I grew up in a Masonic community. I am all about Preserving our family history. O thou God who hearest prayer every hour and everywhere.For his sake whose blood I plead hear me in my hour of need. Only hide not now thy face,God of all sufficient grace.


  6. I think that the hospital should be reopened as a hospital and not a musuem.


    • I agree, maybe with a room or two devoted to the history of the hospital and the Knights and Daughters, but with the rest used as medical clinic offices. That would be a great way to carry on the legacy of medical care established by the Taborians.


    • I was at a pre-construction meeting in Mound Bayou yesterday. There is a strong desire to do just that. Community leaders have received funding and are moving forward with the project.



  1. MissPres News Roundup 3-7-2011 | Preservation in Mississippi
  2. Taborian Hospital and the Delta Health Center: The role of health care in social change and community empowerment « Preservation in Mississippi
  3. Mound Bayou 125th Anniversary Celebration « Preservation in Mississippi

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