State Sen. John Horhn said the marker highlights the importance of the Civil Rights Movement and makes way for more even more progress.
Photo by Imani Khayyam.
Forty-nine years ago, James Meredith left Memphis on foot headed for Jackson. What started out as a small, quiet trek eventually took several tragic twists and turns before concluding at the Mississippi Capitol and becoming one of the marquee moments in the state's civil rights history.
The state and city of Jackson commemorated Meredith's March Against Fear with a marker at the Mississippi Capitol. The marker is the newest addition to the Mississippi Freedom Trail, which pays homage to the people, places and events of the Civil Rights Movement.
State officials unveiled the marker, called "Capitol Rally," on July 29 with a ceremony at the Capitol building.
The march, which started in early June 1966, was one of the seminal moments of the Civil Rights Movement. Part of the way through the march, Meredith was shot and wounded. Although he'd intended it to be a low-key affair, organizations and high-profile figures such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael joined to make it the largest march for justice to take place in Mississippi.
"This marker underscores a turning point in Mississippi. Before, you didn't see large demonstrations of black people protesting their treatment by the white community and the power structure," state Sen. John Horhn said at the event.
The installation of the marker comes at a time when many Mississippians are in disagreement about the state's past and how it should be represented, including on the state's flag, which bears a Confederate battle emblem that has sparked a new round of debate over whether it should be changed.
Despite the dispute, Visit Mississippi, a division of the state tourism department, works to honor and tell the full story of Mississippi's history. Malcolm White, the state tourism director, sees the markers as a symbol of the progress that the people of Mississippi are making.
"As a Mississippian, this is a really important step in Mississippi history and in my own personal life. And we realize more and more the wrongs of the past and how we can build toward a brighter future," White said at the marker unveiling.
While the marker represents the strides that Mississippi has made since the March Against Fear, African American officials agree that Mississippi still has more progress to make.
"Like the biblical story, we've made it through Moab, but we've got one more river to cross, and in that river, we've got a flag we have (to get) out of there," state Sen. David Jordan said at the event. "We're on our way, but we're not there yet."
In addition to highlighting the importance of the Civil Rights Movement, the marker also makes way for more even more progress, Sen. Horhn said.
"We need more representations and monuments for African Americans' presence in Mississippi. We need more economic civility and balance in our economy," he said. "You have to know from where you come (from) to appreciate where you are right now."