Civil Rights icon to attend Proud to Take Stand monument unveiling Saturday

Published 12:17 am Wednesday, October 23, 2019


NATCHEZ — A granite stone, approximately 6-feet tall and 12-feet long and engraved with the names of 486 people who were unjustly imprisoned in 1965 for violating an unconstitutional city ordinance, will be erected this week on the southwest corner of the Natchez City Auditorium at Jefferson and Canal streets.

The “Proud to Take a Stand” monument will be officially unveiled during a ceremony starting at 9:30 a.m. this Saturday on the site, Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said.

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Saturday’s keynote speaker is Andrew Young, Grennell said, a former Atlanta mayor, ambassador, congressman and Civil Rights activist who last visited Natchez under the direction of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. himself during one of the city’s darkest points in its history.

“To have ambassador Young, who is now 87 years old, to come to Natchez to unveil this historic monument is just unbelievable to me,” Grennell said. “It has been my dream to get him back here. He came to Natchez during the 1960s and during the civil rights movement. King sent Andrew Young to Natchez to speak at a mass meeting. It was Andrew Young who helped save this city. … He himself told me about a year ago, out of all the places that he traveled in the south during the Civil Rights movement Natchez was one of the most heated areas than any he had ever been to.”

Natchez has come an extremely long way since Young’s initial visit — from burning buildings to working together to build unity in the community, Grennell said.

Grennell said the monument project was conceived three years ago. The State of Mississippi and The City of Natchez each allocated $38,300 toward the monument and more than $14,000 was given in donations.

Grennell said he charged a monument commission with gathering the historical data, designing, naming and placing the monument — which will be at the city auditorium where several young African American protestors were held before being loaded onto a bus and transported to the state penitentiary at Parchman because all local holding cells were full.

The project evolved from being called the “Parchman Ordeal” monument to the “Proud to Take a Stand” monument as it celebrated not only those who were wrongly incarcerated by the state but all who suffered and stood for civil justice in Natchez during the event.

“That commission did their due diligence to make sure that everyone who was arrested during that ordeal had their names placed on that monument and went beyond my charge in coming up with an appropriate name for the monument,” Grennell said.

Some finishing touches would need to be placed around the monument once it’s placed on the site, Grennell said, including informational panels along the walkway leading up to the monument and symbolic flowers and vegetation planted around the site — such as camellias, Japanese maple, juniper and hydrangeas, which are symbolic of unity and healing.

“One of the great things about this monument is not only does it commemorate those individuals who were proud to take a stand in 1965 — not only does this monument tell that chapter in Natchez history — but the most beautiful part about it is that it says to everyone that it is OK to talk about it,” Grennell said.

In the event of rain, Grennell said the ceremony would be moved inside the Natchez City Auditorium.