Submitted photo / The Natchez Democrat —  Speakers from Georgia State University and the Alabama Poverty Project will speak about the Natchez Civil Rights Movement during the upcoming Historic Natchez Conference from April 17 to 20.
Submitted photo / The Natchez Democrat — Speakers from Georgia State University and the Alabama Poverty Project will speak about the Natchez Civil Rights Movement during the upcoming Historic Natchez Conference from April 17 to 20.

Conference to highlight Natchez Civil Rights

Published 11:56pm Sunday, April 7, 2013

SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT

NATCHEZ —  The Natchez Civil Rights Movement will be the topic of two presentations during the Historic Natchez Conference to be hosted April 17-20.

The Civil Rights Session will begin at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 19, at the Natchez Eola Hotel.

Akinyele Umoja, chair of the Department of African American Studies at Georgia State University, will deliver a presentation titled, “The 1965 Natchez Boycott and its Impact on the Mississippi Freedom Movement.” New York University Press has recently published Umoja’s book on the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement titled, “We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement.”

Eva Walton, program manager of the Alabama Poverty Project, used the title of her award-winning master’s thesis as the title of her presentation, “Nothing Less than an Activist: Marge Baroni, Catholicism, and the Natchez, Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.”

Marge Baroni left high school without graduating to marry Louis Baroni and have six children. An avid reader, Marge Baroni became an editor of the women’s page of The Natchez Democrat, where she contributed book reviews and covered local events. Baroni’s activism resulted in the white community’s ostracism of her family, which was also the target of threats by the Ku Klux Klan. Baroni was writing her thesis for a master’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi when she died from cancer in 1986.

With the passage of time and the benefit of historical perspective, scholars studying the Civil Rights Movement now recognize the historical significance of the Natchez movement.

In his 2004 book titled, “Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement,” Tulane professor Lance Hill describes the Natchez campaign as “undoubtedly the greatest success of the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi.”

“Whereas virtually every other local campaign had ended in failure during the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi, the Natchez project had mobilized an entire community and exacted sweeping concessions from the white establishment — without federal intervention,” Hill said.

Conference co-sponsors are California State University, Northridge, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin, Historic Natchez Foundation, Louisiana State University, Special Collections, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Natchez National Historical Park and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Contact the Historic Natchez Foundation at 601-442-2500 or hnf@natchez.org for more information and a conference program. The full program is available on the foundation’s Facebook page and website natchez.org.