To celebrate this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day (or Great Americans Day according to some at the City of Biloxi), Preservation in Mississippi is highlighting some of the site’s many posts about the Civil Rights Movement and African American history.
Martin Luther King Jr. and the sites associated with him have been posted about on multiple occasions.
While history is still often recounted and taught in a way based on and biased towards the Great Man theory of history, the Civil Rights Movement only succeeded in its goals when large numbers of ordinary African American citizens pushed for positive change to occur. Martin Luther King Jr. would not have a national holiday in his honor without those people, nor would those people be able to use their equal rights as citizens to celebrate that holiday without the movement’s leaders, men and women like Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, John Lewis, and others.
This series of posts by Malvaney chronicles the largely ignored history and demolition of the Agriculture and Industries buildings on the Mississippi State Fairgrounds, more infamously known as “The Fairgrounds Motel,” where hundreds of Civil Rights activists were imprisoned in the summer of 1963.
One of the earliest posts about Civil Rights on the site is also one of the most evocative, telling how one building, the McWilliams Building in downtown Clarksdale, retains traces of its Jim Crow history and reveals “differences and similarities that deepen your understanding of this complicated, interwoven, very human place we call Mississippi.” Even though this post is from the very beginning of the site, when Preservation in Mississippi was still finding its audience, every MissPres author (see Thomas Rosell’s re-posting of it in 2015) thinks it is one of the best posts on the site.
The demolition of Meridian’s COFO Building was one of the worst historic building losses we have had the misfortune to witness in the site’s history.
Rosalind Lee’s guest post about the now-demolished Mendenhall School advocates the view that historic preservation of a formerly segregated symbol of Jim Crow can be about racial reconciliation, not glorifying an imperfect and painful past.
Although many sites associated with the Civil Rights Movement have been demolished, many still remain. Visiting those remaining sites, chronicling their histories, and advocating for their preservation is one way that we can remember those who gave up so much to gain the rights they always deserved.