Moment in Stone: Proud to Take Stand monument dedicated

Published 12:16 am Tuesday, October 29, 2019


NATCHEZ —More than 500 people filled the Natchez City Auditorium to dedicate a monument in remembrance of a part of Natchez civil rights history.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said he heard the stories of the civil rights era from relatives and always thought the city needed a monument dedicated to those stories.

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“I have always said to myself that we need a monument in this city so that people can know the history of the city as it relates to the civil rights movement,” Grennell said to the crowd.

One chapter of the city’s history when hundreds of black citizens were arrested and sent to Parchman Penitentiary was of particular importance, Grennell said.

When he became mayor, Grennell said he formed a commission and charged its members with designing a monument to what was known as the Parchman Ordeal.

Grennell said the 12-member commission exceeded his request to design a monument dedicated to the survivors of the Parchman Ordeal.

“They went beyond the parameters of my charge and they came up with a name for this monument and it is called Proud to Take a Stand,” Grennell said. “I give thanks to the commission. I give thanks to all who helped make this day come.”

Commission chairman Robert Pernell said he is proud of what the group accomplished.

“We started out as 12 strangers,” Pernell said. “As time went on we became 12 friends. As time went on we became 12 members of a family.”

Pernell said the monument is for more than just the people of Adams County.

“The monument memorializes the experience for those who come to visit the city to know that we have citizens who took a stand,” Pernell said. “History is history. We can’t change that but we can move forward together.”

In attendance were many of the survivors to which the monument is dedicated, including Ronnie Coleman and Deloris Bassett, who both spoke about being bussed to Parchman, being stripped down and forced to take laxatives.

Civil rights icon, former ambassador to the United Nations and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young gave the keynote speech of the morning.

The trip to Natchez was not the first for Young who had been sent in 1966 by Martin Luther King Jr. to counsel a group of Natchezians who were threatening violence in the city.

“I can never turn down an opportunity to come to Mississippi. The reason is I was asleep until Mississippi woke me,” Young said.

The tragedy of Emmett Till inspired the civil rights leader to act and awakened a nation, Young said.

“The irony of it all is that the very people who wanted to scare us and put us in our place, were the ones that woke us up,” Young said. “Every time somebody did something to push us down, it only raised us up a little higher.”

Young said he was able to quell the anxiety and fears of residents that night he came to Natchez in 1966, but does not remember exactly what he said.

Since then Young said he has seen much accomplished in the last 50 years.

“Something is going on in this nation that is good and you symbolize it on this occasion,” Young said.

Young said the Proud to Take a Stand monument is an example — an example of how far things have come and how much is left to do.

“We are dedicating a memorial in stone to the flesh and blood and tears and sweat and anxiety of those people who suffered in Parchman, but never gave up and never lost their faith. We are here because of them,” Young said. “They were proud to take a stand. Someday soon it might your turn or my turn.

“They did not let us down. Do not let them down.”