Mayor seeks funds from county for monument

Published 12:37 am Wednesday, February 21, 2018

by Sabrina Simms

NATCHEZ — Incarcerated Natchezians who proudly stood for their civil rights in the 1960s may soon be honored for their persecution.

Mayor Darryl Grennell pushed the city, state and county to raise funds for a monument to honor the residents’ struggle. Grennell made his pleas Tuesday at the Adams County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Email newsletter signup

He said construction should begin at the corner of Jefferson and North Canal streets near the Natchez City Auditorium — pending the board’s approval — and should last approximately six months.

Hundreds of black protestors were detained at the auditorium more than 50 years ago; many were taken to the state penitentiary at Parchman, Miss. Grennell said those responsible for the ordeal should be the ones who pay for the monument.

“Since these individuals were wrongfully incarcerated by the city, the county and the state of Mississippi, I think that the city, the county and the state should step up to the plate and provide the money for the monument,” Grennell said.

He said the project will cost approximately $114,900, and asked each of the three branches to raise $38,300.

Grennell said he grew up knowing the history of what is now called the Parchman Ordeal from his father’s experience, but many others have never heard the story.

“My dad was a part of the event,” Grennell said. “He was one of the individuals who was … arrested.”

Grennell said the protesters assembled at Beulah Baptist Church and were arrested in the vicinity of Rose Hill Baptist on Rankin Street. They were then taken to the auditorium.

“They knew before they attended that mass meeting that if they were going to march that day, they would be arrested. The participants took the position that ‘If they are going to arrest us, we’re going to fill up the jails in Natchez-Adams County.’”

Grennell said the city and county jails were not large enough to hold the approximately 700 protestors.

“They saturated the city jail,” Grennell said. “They saturated the county jail. … They chartered busses and loaded (the remaining protestors) … and took them up to Parchman penitentiary.”

Grennell said his father was on one of the busses.

“They gave them laxatives. They had them 10 to a cell, they stripped them of their clothing and they hosed them down,” Grennell said.

“They spent several days in that ordeal. My uncle had a goatee. … One of the guardsmen went up to him and snatched the hair from his chin. There were people who suffered from that ordeal who never recovered.”

Grennell said he appointed a commission a little more than a year ago to come up with a design for the monument that memorializes the protest for civil rights and honors the individuals who were arrested for it.

“They were charged to make sure that every name is engraved in that monument of individuals who were incarcerated as a result of an event — that no name is excluded … to make sure that the spellings of the names are … correct.” Grennell said.

The commission was also tasked with determining a location of historical significance for the monument.

“The commission was excited. They took on the charges. They met monthly for approximately a year.”

Grennell said the commission did everything they could to ensure no honoree was excluded from the list to be etched on the monument. They made radio announcements, ran newspaper articles, searched police records from the 1960s and kept the list of names at the public library for review.

“(The commission) went beyond the parameters of the charge that I gave them,” Grennell said. “They came up with an appropriate name (for the monument)… ‘Proud to Take a Stand.’”

Grennell said he hoped to raise the money for the project this fiscal year. However, the Adams County Board of Supervisors’ attorney Scott Slover said he did not know if the county could come up with the funds Grennell was requesting.

“This budget year, there’s not a lot of wiggle room,” Slover said. “We have decided to tighten up our belt and eat the (county’s) debt instead.”

Slover said the project may be easier to fund next fiscal year.

Board President Calvin Butler said the supervisors would take Grennell’s request under advisement and look at the county’s budget.