Fifty years ago, police in Natchez, Miss., rounded up hundreds of innocent, civil rights protesters and shipped them off to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Last week, the city’s mayor and Board of Aldermen publicly apologized for the grave injustice, the Natchez Democrat reports.
In anticipation of the national spotlight that will illuminate the city next year during its tricentennial celebration, the board decided that it was time to make amends and did so in a public resolution.
In October 1965, approximately 700 black citizens who congregated at a local auditorium were arrested for organizing a march in protest of racist voter disenfranchisement. The ordinance cited in the mass arrest was later determined to be unconstitutional, according to Darrell White, director of the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture. But that didn’t matter to the good old boys.
Two hundred of those arrested were shipped off to Parchman, a prison notorious for its inhumane conditions, where they were subjected to mistreatment and abuse. According to the Democrat, the protesters never went before a judge or had their day in court.
White and Galen Mark LaFrancis are in the process of filming a documentary to shed light on the Parchman Ordeal, which, along with other Natchez stories—like the 1967 Ku Klux Klan slaying of Wharlest Jackson—has flown below the nation’s radar.
Community activist Dr. Betty Cade, who spearheaded the efforts, told the paper that the public apology “is the first step in getting this out in the open and letting us heal” as the city, once the second-largest slave-trading post in the United States and the largest in the state of Mississippi, heads into its 300th year.
Mayor Larry L. “Butch” Brown agrees.
Source: The Root | KIRSTEN WEST SAVALI