Civil Rights era bombing remembered on Tuesday

Published 12:16 am Saturday, August 24, 2019

NATCHEZ — Tuesday is the 54th anniversary of the day the former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People president George Metcalf survived an attempted assassination, which will be commemorated at 7 a.m. Tuesday at 9 St. Catherine Street.

On Aug. 27, 1965, Metcalf turned his key to crank his car near his place of employment at the former Armstrong Tire and Rubber Co. and ignited a turning point for the Civil Rights movement in Natchez, said memorial organizer, Ser Seshs Ab Heter-Boxley.

Metcalf survived the bomb that exploded underneath the hood of his vehicle, Boxley said. However, the explosion set off a ripple in the Natchez African American community that would lead to the wrongful incarceration of hundreds of individuals in the state penitentiary at Parchman — an event history later called the Parchman Ordeal, Boxley said.

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“That explosion awakened a mindset of the African American community,” Boxley said. “… They immediately began to search for ways to express their anger. One of the ways turned out to be organizing a march on the Natchez City Hall.”

Prior to the assassination attempt, Boxley said the various supporting groups of the civil rights movement took a more civilized approach in hopes of gaining suffrage, but the explosion caused those in Natchez to react in different ways.

Many people started to assemble and list of other demands along with voting rights, Boxley said, including desegregation of all public facilities.

“The city historically rejected those demands,” Boxley said. “Which solidified their desire to march on City Hall. Hundreds of arrests took place to stop the civil rights movement, leading to the Parchman Ordeal.”

Boxley said a traditional African American libation service would take place 7 a.m. Tuesday at the yellow house on St. Catherine Street.

The house once held the office for the Natchez chapter of the NAACP and was home to Dr. John Banks, the first black doctor in Natchez.

“That yellow house is the place from which the most successful group from the civil rights movement emanated,” Boxley said. “… The people here seem to have forgotten that part of history that made Natchez better. It’s too quiet. … This libation service is an effort to shake the memory of the people of Natchez, energizing them and offering a libation of thanks to those individuals who changed the course of our history.”

Boxley said the ceremony is open to anyone who wishes to attend.

“This is a spiritual ceremony, so those interested in thanking our African American ancestors should come,” Boxley said. “Those who want to learn about the historic designation of Dr. Bank’s house should come and learn as well. The doctor’s history should not overshadow the people’s history.”