Black History Month: Mound Bayou (1887-) – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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Black History Month: Mound Bayou (1887-)

February is Black History Month. Throughout this month The Royal Gazette will feature people, events, places and institutions that have contributed to the shaping of African history

Mound Bayou was an all-black town in the Yazoo Delta in north-west Mississippi. It was founded during the spring of 1887 by 12 pioneers from Davis Bend, a fledgeling black colony affected by falling agricultural prices, natural disasters and hostile race relations.

This migration movement was led by Isaiah Montgomery, former patriarch of Davis Bend. Purchased from the Louisville, New Orleans, and Texas Railroad, Mound Bayou bordered a new rail line between Memphis, Tennessee and Vicksburg. From 1890 to 1915, Mound Bayou was a land of promise for African-Americans. Encapsulated in this “promise” were self-help, race pride, economic opportunity and social justice, in a self-segregated community designed for blacks to have minimum contact with whites until integration was a viable option to black freedom.

Mound Bayou had a United States Post Office, six churches, banks, stores, and several public and private schools. Its economy depended on the production of cotton, timber and corn, and being an agent for the LNO&T Railroad. Politically, Mound Bayou's mayor, Isaiah Montgomery, protected it from white violence through political accommodation. Montgomery also ensured Mound Bayou's growth by working closely with Booker T. Washington after 1900, through his “lieutenant”, Charles Banks.

Socially, Mound Bayou had an exceptionally low crime rate, high morals — ie, no gambling or sale of alcohol — and everyone had to be a useful member of the community. Through outlets such as the town's newspaper, The Demonstrator (1900), Mound Bayou promoted education as an essential path to community survival, in particular vocational education in scientific agriculture through the Mound Bayou Normal and Industrial Institute.

From 1907 to 1915, this infra-structure, along with Mound Bayou's function as a railroad centre, allowed it to flourish and grow to 8,000 people by 1911.

Its noticeable decline occurred during the Great Migration period (1915-1930), in which cotton prices fell, Washington passed away and the black path towards freedom was redirected from independent towns towards the major cities of the US.

Despite its sharp population decline throughout the century, Mound Bayou still exists today as a predominantly black town in Mississippi, with a 98.6 per cent total black population.

Sources: Leon Litwack and August Meier (eds.), Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1991); and David H. Jackson, A Chief Lieutenant of the Tuskegee Machine: Charles Banks of Mississippi (Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2002)

Place apart: Mound Bayou residents in the late 1930s

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Published February 20, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated February 20, 2017 at 7:37 am)

Black History Month: Mound Bayou (1887-)

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