Ready to stand: Construction for ‘Proud to Take a Stand’ monument begins

Published 12:20 am Thursday, June 13, 2019


NATCHEZ — Workers began installing this week the foundation for a monument titled “Proud to Take a Stand” that will honor civil rights activists who were unconstitutionally arrested in 1965 and imprisoned in the State Penitentiary at Parchman without trials.

“When I saw them working out here Sunday morning, I was like, ‘Oh my God. It’s happening,” said Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell, whose father, Jonathan Grennell, was among those arrested when they were marching for civil rights without a permit as required by a city ordinance that was later ruled unconstitutional. “I’m just happy to see it’s beginning to come together.”

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The monument will be built on the southwest corner of the Natchez City Auditorium at Jefferson and Canal streets where the mostly young black protesters were held before being transported by bus to Parchman where they were abused and held for several days without benefit of trial.

Grennell said he is working toward having the monument completed and the unveiling ceremony on Oct. 2, which will be the anniversary date of the march.

“I think it can be achieved,” Grennell said.

Landscaping and lighting will be installed before a granite monument engraved with the names of those imprisoned in the Parchman Ordeal, as it has come to be called, is placed on the site.

The State of Mississippi allocated $38,300 toward the monument. The City of Natchez gave $38,300 and Grennell raised more than $14,000, including $1,000 of his own money.

“Different people in the community just stepped up to the plate, and different churches made donations, too,” Grennell said. “I’m just so thankful. With that money to go with the money from the state and the city, we have been able to go forward with this and move this project forward.”

Grennell said several Natchez residents are survivors of the Parchman Ordeal and many of them have expressed interest in seeing the project come to fruition.

One survivor in particular, 93-year-old Willie Mae Robinson, Grennell said, approached him at the “I Have a Dream Lunch-in” last year at the Natchez Convention center and said she really wanted to see the monument built.

“She said, ‘Darryl, I want to see this monument before I leave here,’” Grennell said. “… I have to get the ball rolling on this so that Miss Willie Mae Robinson (and others) can see this monument.”