In January 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt refused to accept the resignation of Minnie Geddings Cox, postmistress for the city of Indianola and Mississippi’s first African American postmistress. Roosevelt subsequently closed Indianola’s post office, and it remained closed for more than a year. The newspapers called the incident the “Indianola Affair.” Raised by business owner parents and educated at one of the premier schools for aspiring African American women, Cox sought opportunities beyond the traditional expectations for women of the time.
In January 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt refused to accept the resignation of Minnie Geddings Cox, postmistress for the city of Indianola and Mississippi’s first African American postmistress. Roosevelt subsequently closed Indianola’s post office, and it remained closed for more than a year. The newspapers referred to the post office closing as the “Indianola Affair.” Cox’s role in the Indianola Affair, however, has been reduced to a footnote in early twentieth-century United States history.
Nearly ten years after the decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), most Southern school districts remained racially segregated, and decades of educational disparities wrought devastating economic consequences for Black Mississippians. In the summer of 1964, the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) established forty-one Freedom Schools in Mississippi.
The 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer was perhaps the most ambitious extended campaign of the entire Civil Rights Movement. Over the course of roughly two months, more than 1,000 volunteers arrived in Mississippi to help draw media attention to the state’s Black freedom movement, to register African American voters, and to teach in Freedom Schools that were established to supplement the inferior educational opportunities provided to black youths in the state’s public schools.
The history of the Colonial Natchez District, Mississippi’s most successful early European settlement, is one frequently told through the eyes and accounts of White settlers. Yet, Natchez was built primarily through the backbreaking work of enslaved Africans. During Natchez’s first century, people from Europe and Africa, along with Native Americans, struggled with each other over land, labor, and wealth. However, not all Africans in Natchez were enslaved.
During the early 1900s, the boll weevil threatened the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta and put the state’s cotton kingdom in peril. Surprisingly, planters believed that the best way to defend their cotton from the weevil was to protect their place on top of the racial and social ladder in the Delta. James Giesen’s research reveals the ways in which the beliefs of White landowners concerning race and labor shaped the approach of Delta planters to their agricultural environment and its pests.
In 2011 Mississippi newspapers reported that during the mid-20th century civil rights movement, more than one hundred Mississippi African Americans were victims of assault or murder, yet no perpetrators, many of them unknown, were identified or convicted.
Mississippi had pockets of strong local civil rights activity before the Freedom Riders entered the state, but their presence in 1961 propelled the local movement to new heights.
Prior to the involvement of national initiatives in the 1960s, such as the Freedom Rides, local people worked to bring an end to discrimination in their communities. These efforts were led out of public view in private homes, churches, and small businesses. For this reason, the early local leaders of the Civil Rights Movement are often overlooked in history.