Friday, November 28, 2014

Jackson, Mississippi, November 14

First stop in Jackson was the historic Greenwood Cemetery.  It's still in use and was established by a federal land grant in 1821.  It was originally known as "The Graveyard" and then as "City Cemetery" before being given the name of Greenwood in 1899.  Buried on these grounds are several Confederate generals, former governors of Mississippi and mayors of Jackson, as well as the author Eudora Welty.  The graves of more than 100 unknown Confederate soldiers are also located here.

I've always loved old cemeteries, probably because my grandfather used to take us to see them when we were kids visiting in New Jersey. Some dated back to Revolutionary War days and were very spooky as well as fascinating.  :)
We went to the State Capitol but there was a lot of construction going on and we ended up not going inside because the front entrance was blocked off.  For my friend Suzassippi, I did a little research and learned that the building is constructed in the Beaux-Arts architectural style.  :)   Out front is a memorial to the mothers, sisters, wives and daughters of Confederate soldiers.  From "Nashville artist Belle Kinney created the sculpture, which was cast by the Tiffany Studio and dated 1917. The monument, one-and-one-half times life size, is the oldest public bronze sculpture in Jackson and the only one memorializing women. The sculpture features three figures: a central female representing Fame, to her left a dying Confederate soldier, and to her right a Confederate woman on whose head Fame is placing a laurel wreath, the symbolic gesture of victory, giving the monument its meaning as a memorial to women."

Across the street from the Capitol is the Gothic style First Baptist Church, which was built in 1927 and houses the largest Baptist congregation in the state.  It has connections to the Mt. Helm Baptist Church, below.
This is the historic Mt. Helm Baptist Church.  One of my favorite quotes is used in the description of the congregation:  "A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm (Henrik Ibsen).  From  the church website: "Founded in 1835, Mt. Helm is the oldest Black church in Jackson.  It began with several enslaved Blacks worshipping in the basement of First Baptist Church--Jackson, and became a separate body in 1867, the year the 13th amendment was ratified. A number of prominent Baptist churches were generated from the Mt. Helm congregation. Also Jackson State University, formerly Jackson College, was for a time housed at Mt. Helm."
 We passed this building while driving in the historic Farish District.
The Greyhound Bus Station where Freedom Riders were arrested in 1961.  From the website Civil Rights Movement Veterans:"On Wednesday morning, May 24, a dozen Freedom Riders boarded a Trailways bus for the 250 mile journey to Jackson MS. Surrounded by Highway Patrol and National Guard, the bus heads west on Highway 80 in a caravan of more than 40 vehicles. They pass through Selma at top speed without stopping--there will be no bus depot rest stops until Jackson seven hours from Montgomery. Meanwhile, back in Montgomery, 14 more riders board the mid day Greyhound for Jackson. When the weary riders arrive in Jackson and attempt to use "white only" restrooms and lunch counters they are immediately arrested for Breach of Peace and Refusal to Obey an Officer.  From lockup, the riders announce "Jail No Bail"--they will not pay fines for unconstitutional arrests and illegal convictions--and by staying in jain, they keep the issue alive." 

Eventually, there were so many Freedom Riders in jail that they were transferred to the notorious Parchman Prison where they continued their vow for "Jail No Bail."  Read more about the Freedom Riders here..  Imagine taking this ride knowing you could have been arrested, beaten, or even killed for your actions. I hope I would have been willing.
It's now an architect's office.
Medgar Evers was shot and killed outside his home, pictured above.  From the Evers Institute website:  "Medgar Evers was a pioneering visionary for civil rights in the 1950s and early 1960s in Mississippi. As the state's first field secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), he was one of the most visible leaders in the civil rights movement in America. His assassination on June 12, 1963, galvanized President John F. Kennedy to ask Congress for a comprehensive civil rights bill, which was signed into law the following year by President Lyndon Johnson."  Medgar Evers' wife Myrlie said, "You can kill a man, but you can't kill an idea."  She went on to establish the Evers Institute to continue work on social justice issues. It took almost 31 years for Evers' killer, Byron De La Beckwith, to be brought to justice.  Read more about Medgar Evers here.
We drove through the historic Farish District which was once a thriving area containing businesses such as the Alamo Theater, Trumpet Records, the NAACP field office where Medgar Evers worked, and the Big Apple Inn.  We were told they serve a great pig ear sandwich at the Big Apple Inn, but we didn't make it for lunch.  :)
We passed "Freedom Corner" while looking for Medgar Evers' home.  This caused me to reflect that many are still searching for true freedom, which only comes when there is equal opportunity and social justice for all.  I hope that the sacrifices of Medgar Evers, freedom riders, and civil rights activists will not have been in vain.

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