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Charles Evers, Center, with Civil Rights Marchers in Natchez 1965. - AP Photo
Monument to the “Parchman Ordeal”
from Staff Reports - NEWS
November 15, 2017 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. -- The Board of Aldermen approved plans Tuesday for placing a monument by the City Auditorium to recognize Natchez’ unjust imprisonment and abuse of civil-rights protesters more than 50 years ago.

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. 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.

In acknowledging this as a travesty, the Natchez Board of Aldermen in September 2015 approved a resolution apologizing to those blacks "who suffered these injustices."

After taking office in July 2016, Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell appointed a committee to recommend a site and design for the monument. Committee leader Robert Pernell presented the plans Tuesday to the mayor and aldermen.

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 act of contrition expressed in 2015 by the Natchez Board of Aldermen.

It’ll be called the “Proud to Take a Stand” monument to commemorate blacks arrested for parading without a permit and defying a local judge's order against marching on the streets.

“These brave civil rights activists attempted to march from their churches to protest segregation, unfair treatment and obstruction of voting rights,” states a 2016 report by the Mississippi Humanities Council.

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.

Pernell expressed hope Tuesday the monument will be erected sometime next year “to make an empty space (by the auditorium) a dynamic space.” It’s to be funded by private donations, according to Natchez planning and zoning director Rico Giani. He administered the Natchez Preservation Commission’s review and approval of the monument’s design in September. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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