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Mayor seeking funds for "Natchez Ordeal" civil-rights monument
from Staff Reports - NEWS
February 21, 2018 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – Mayor Darryl Grennell is seeking $114,000 from local and state governments to fund the construction of a monument by the City Auditorium to recognize Natchez’ unjust imprisonment and abuse of civil-rights protesters more than 50 years ago.

Grennell said Tuesday he hopes to get money soon from the Natchez Board of Aldermen, Adams County Board of Supervisors and the Mississippi Legislature. While it’s uncertain if the city board and Legislature will provide the requested share, county board President Calvin Butler said supervisors don’t have the money to help the project. Adams County funds might be available in the fiscal year that starts next October, he said.

The marble marker and plaza will memorialize what’s known as the “Parchman Ordeal.” That’s when more than 150 black marchers in October 1965 were arrested by Natchez law-enforcement officers as they were peacefully protesting civil-rights abuses. Because there was not enough space in the city and county jails, some activists were bused to Parchman state prison in north Mississippi and held in inhumane conditions until bailed out.

Grennell met Tuesday with the county board, and he’s set to meet today with the Board of Aldermen to consider allocating money for what’s being called the “Proud to Take a Stand” monument. The state Legislature is currently in session and has a self-imposed deadline of March 26 to pass a bill to fund such projects.

After taking office in July 2016, Grennell appointed a committee to recommend a site and design for the monument. The six-foot-tall, 12-foot-long semicircle monument will be located by the corner of Jefferson and Canal streets on the Natchez City Auditorium grounds. It’s to be accompanied by a sitting wall and small plaza emblazoned with a written narrative of the event and the names of those arrested. It’ll also take note of the official contrition expressed in 2015 by the Natchez Board of Aldermen in a resolution apologizing to blacks "who suffered these injustices."

Those arrested were thrown into the city and county jails or corralled into the Natchez City Auditorium. According to historical accounts, many marchers were bused to the state prison at Parchman, stripped naked in cold weather and crowded -- more than 10 apiece -- into cells meant for just two prison inmates. They were given laxatives without adequate toilet facilities.

Grennell, who noted his father was among the demonstrators arrested and imprisoned, said the “Parchman Ordeal” was largely swept under the rug and not known of publicly much of the past 50 years. However, it’s historical prominence has risen recently. With the opening last December of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, the timing is appropriate for the monument to be built in Natchez, Grennell said.

The mayor said he hopes this spring to begin the fabrication of the black granite monument and getting the names etched in the stone. That, he said, will take about six months. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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