Greenwood, Mississippi

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Greenwood, Mississippi
City
Nickname(s): Cotton Capital of the World
Location of Greenwood, Mississippi
Location of Greenwood, Mississippi
Coordinates: 33°31′7″N 90°11′2″W / 33.51861°N 90.18389°W / 33.51861; -90.18389Coordinates: 33°31′7″N 90°11′2″W / 33.51861°N 90.18389°W / 33.51861; -90.18389
Country United States
State Mississippi
County Leflore
Area
 • Total 13 sq mi (33.7 km2)
 • Land 12.4 sq mi (32.1 km2)
 • Water 0.6 sq mi (1.6 km2)
Elevation 131 ft (40 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 16,087
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 38930, 38935
Area code(s) 662
FIPS code 28-29340
GNIS feature ID 0670714
Website www.cityofgreenwood.org

Greenwood is a city in and the county seat of Leflore County, Mississippi,1 located at the eastern edge of the Mississippi Delta approximately 96 miles north of Jackson, Mississippi, and 130 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee. The population was 16,087 at the 2010 census. It is the principal city of the Greenwood Micropolitan Statistical Area. The Tallahatchie River and the Yalobusha River meet at Greenwood to form the Yazoo River. Throughout the 1960s Greenwood was the site of major protests and conflicts over racial integration and voting rights during the civil rights movement.

History

Howard Street, Greenwood

The flood plain of the Mississippi River has long been an area rich in vegetation and wildlife, feeding off the Mississippi and its numerous tributaries. Long before Europeans migrated to America, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian nations settled in the Delta's bottomlands and throughout what is now central Mississippi. They were descended from indigenous peoples who had lived in the area for thousands of years.

In the nineteenth century, the Five Civilized Tribes suffered increasing encroachment on their territory by European-American settlers from southeastern states. Under pressure from the United States government, in 1830 the Choctaw principal chief Greenwood Leflore and other Choctaw leaders signed the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, ceding most of their remaining land to the United States in exchange for land in what is now southeastern Oklahoma. The government opened the land to settlement by European Americans. LeFlore came to regret his decision to sign away his people's land, stating in 1843 that he was "sorry to say that the benefits realized from [the treaty] by my people were by no means equal to what I had a right to expect, nor to what they were justly entitled."2

The first Euro-American settlement on the banks of the Yazoo River was a trading post founded by John Williams in 18343:7 and known as Williams Landing. The settlement quickly blossomed, and in 1844 was incorporated as "Greenwood," named after Chief Greenwood Leflore. Growing in the midst of a strong cotton market, the city's success was based on its strategic location in the heart of the Delta; on the easternmost point of the alluvial plain and astride the Tallahatchie and the Yazoo rivers. The city served as a shipping point for cotton to major markets in New Orleans, Louisiana, Vicksburg, Mississippi, Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri. Greenwood continued to prosper, based on slave labor on the cotton plantations and in shipping, until the latter part of the American Civil War.

The end of the Civil War in 1865 and the following years of Reconstruction changed the labor market to one of free labor. The state was mostly undeveloped frontier, and many freedmen withdrew from working for others. In the nineteenth century, many blacks managed to clear and buy their own farms in the bottomlands.4 With the disruption of war and changes to labor, cotton production initially declined, reducing the city's previously thriving economy.

The construction of railroads through the area in the 1880s revitalized the city,3:8 with two rail lines running to downtown Greenwood, close to the Yazoo River, and shortening transportation to markets. Greenwood again emerged as a prime shipping point for cotton. Downtown's Front Street bordering the Yazoo filled with cotton factors and related businesses, earning that section the name Cotton Row. The city continued to prosper in this way well into the 1940s, although cotton production suffered during the infestation of the boll weevil in the early 20th century. For many years, the bridge over the Yazoo displayed the sign, "World's Largest Inland Long Staple Cotton Market".

The industry was largely mechanized in the 20th century before World War II. Since the late 20th century, some Mississippi farmers have begun to replace cotton with corn and soybeans as commodity crops, because of the shift of the textile industry overseas, and stronger prices for those crops.5

Greenwood's Grand Boulevard was once named one of America's 10 most beautiful streets by the U.S. Chambers of Commerce and the Garden Clubs of America. Sally Humphreys Gwin, a charter member of the Greenwood Garden Club, planted the 1,000 oak trees lining Grand Boulevard. In 1950, Gwin received a citation from the National Congress of the Daughters of the American Revolution in recognition of her work in the conservation of trees.67

The civil rights era in Greenwood

In 1955, following the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the White Citizens' Council was founded by Robert B. Patterson in Greenwood to fight against racial integration.8 Local chapters formed across the state, and the white-dominated legislature voted to give the Councils financial support. Having been disfranchised since 1890, when the state passed a new constitution and related electoral and Jim Crow laws, the black community had not been able to elect representatives since then to the state or federal legislature, and could not protest such actions.9 The Council paid staff to collect information on black professionals and activists who worked for the restoration of American constitutional civil rights.

1962–1965

From 1962 until 1964, Greenwood was a center of protests and voter registration struggles during the Civil Rights Movement. The SNCC, COFO, and the MFDP were all active in Greenwood. During this period, hundreds were arrested in nonviolent protests; civil rights activists were subjected to repeated violence, and whites used economic retaliation against African Americans who attempted to register to vote.10 The city police set their police dog, Tiger, on protesters while white counter-protesters yelled "Sic 'em" from the sidewalk.11 When Martin Luther King visited the city later in 1963, the Ku Klux Klan distributed a flyer which read in part (capitalization in original):

TO THOSE OF YOU NIGGERS WHO GAVE OR GIVE AID AND COMFORT TO THIS CIVIL RIGHTS SCUM, WE ADVISE YOU THAT YOUR IDENTITIES ARE IN THE PROPER HANDS AND YOU WILL BE REMEMBERED. WE KNOW THAT THE NIGGER OWNER OF COLLINS SHOE SHOP ON JOHNSON STREET "ENTERTAINED" MARTIN LUTHER KING WHEN THE "BIG NIGGER" CAME TO GREENWOOD. WE KNOW OF OTHERS AND WE SAY TO YOU — AFTER THE SHOWING AND THE PLATE-PASSING AND STUPID STREET DEMONSTRATIONS ARE OVER AND THE IMPORTED AGITATORS HAVE ALL GONE, ONE THING IS SURE AND CERTAIN — YOU ARE STILL GOING TO BE NIGGERS AND WE ARE STILL GOING TO BE WHITE MEN. YOU HAVE CHOSEN YOUR BEDS AND NOW YOU MUST LIE IN THEM.11

The civil rights protesters in Greenwood in the mid-1960s were supported by an economic boycott organized by the Catholic peace organization Pax Christi, which had a chapter in the city. Pax Christi's ultimately successful efforts were encouraged by the Bishop of Jackson, native Mississippian Joseph Bernard Brunini.12

In 1964 and 1965 respectively, the United States Congress passed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act to enforce constitutional rights of African Americans and other minorities. For some time, voter registration and elections were monitored by the federal government because of historic discrimination against blacks in the state. The proportion of black citizens of Mississippi who were registered to vote finally roughly matched their proportion of the population in the late 1980s.13

1966–present

In June 1966, James Meredith, the first African-American to attend the University of Mississippi, announced that he was going to walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi to protest racism. Meredith was shot two days into his "March Against Fear,"14 and a number of high profile civil rights leaders, including Stokely Carmichael, vowed to continue his protest. When the group reached Greenwood on June 17, Carmichael was arrested but released after a few hours. Later, in Greenwood's Broad Street Park, Carmichael gave his famous Black power speech, stating:

This is the twenty-seventh time I have been arrested—and I ain't going to jail no more! The only way we gonna stop them white men from whuppin' us is to take over. We been sayin' "freedom" for six years and we ain't got nothin'. What we gonna start saying now is Black Power!15

The speech was a turning point in the civil rights movement in the sense that younger members took up Carmichael's slogan, taking it to support the use of violence in the defense of their freedom.16 The speech has been said to have marked the beginning of the fragmentation of the civil rights movement in the mid 1960s.17

On December 3, 2010, Frederick Jermaine Carter, an African-American man from Sunflower County with a history of mental illness, was found dead, hanging from a tree in north Greenwood. The Leflore county coroner ruled the death a suicide, but the NAACP was concerned that foul play may have been involved. The NAACP explicitly tied the black community's suspicions about the verdict to the state's history of racial violence against blacks. The reporter Larry Copeland for USA Today noted that the young Emmett Till had been lynched 12 miles away in 1955; state Senator David Jordan said, "We're not drawing any conclusions. We're skeptical, and rightfully we should be, given our history. We can't take this lightly. We just have to wait and see."18

Geography

Greenwood is located at 33°31′7″N 90°11′2″W / 33.51861°N 90.18389°W / 33.51861; -90.18389 (33.518719, -90.183883)19. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.5 square miles (25 km2), of which 9.2 square miles (24 km2) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2) is water.

As of 1998, the northern portion of Greenwood is almost all White and the southern half is mostly black. Greenwood is 30 miles (48 km) from the nearest interstate highway.20 It is 90 miles (140 km) north of Jackson.21

Demographics

2010 census

At the 2010 census,22 there were 15,205 people and 6,022 households in the city. The population density was 1,237.7 per square mile (771.6/km²). There were 6,759 housing units. The racial makeup of the city was 30.7% White, 67.2% Black, 0.1% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0% Pacific Islander, and 0.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.1% of the population.

Among the 6,022 households 28.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 29.8% are married couples living together, 29.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 36.6% were non-families. 32.5% of all households were made up of individuals living alone and 10.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.16.

2000 census

At the 2000 census23, there were 18,425 people, 6,916 households and 4,523 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,997.8 per square mile (771.6/km²). There are 7,565 housing units at an average density of 820.3 per square mile (316.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 32.82% White, 65.36% Black, 0.11% Native American, 0.91% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 0.24% from other races, and 0.48% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.03% of the population.

There were 6,916 households of which 34.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.4% are married couples living together, 27.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.6% were non-families. 31.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.29.

31.0% of the population were under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 18.6% from 45 to 64, and 13.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 84.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 75.9 males.

The median household income was $21,867 and the median family income was $26,393. Males had a median income of $27,267 versus $18,578 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,461. 33.9% of the population and 28.8% of families are below the poverty line. Of the total population, 47.0% of those under the age of 18 and 20.0% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

Mississippi Blues Trail markers

Radio station WGRM on Howard Street was the location of B.B. King's first live broadcast in 1940. On Sunday nights, King performed live gospel music as part of a quartet.24 In memory of this event, the Mississippi Blues Trail has placed its third historic marker in this town at the site of the former radio station.2526 Another Mississippi Blues trail marker is placed near the grave of the blues singer Robert Johnson.27 There is also a Blues Trail marker at the Elks Lodge.28

Government and infrastructure

Local government

Greenwood is governed under the city council form of government composed of council members from seven wards and headed by a mayor.

State and federal representation

The Delta Correctional Facility, operated by the Corrections Corporation of America on behalf of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, was located in Greenwood.2930 It is a medium-security prison, owned by the state of Mississippi, and privately operated. As of 1998 the largest employer to have moved into the area in that period of time was the prison. In 1998 it had 1,000 prisoners. About 950 of them were black.20 The facility closed on January 14, 2012.

The United States Postal Service operates two post offices in Greenwood. They are the Greenwood Post Office and the Leflore Post Office.3132

Media and publishing

Newspapers, magazines and journals

Television

AM/FM radio

Transportation

Railroads

Greenwood is served by two major rail lines. Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Greenwood, connecting New Orleans to Chicago from Greenwood station.

Air transportation

Greenwood is served by Greenwood-Leflore Airport (GWO) to the east and is located midway between Jackson, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee, and about halfway between Dallas, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia.

Highways

Education

Greenwood Public School District operates public schools. Greenwood High School is the only public high school in Greenwood. Around 1988 it was split almost evenly between black and white students,and in 1998, it was 92% black. As of 2014, it is 99% black.20 33

Leflore County School District operates schools outside the Greenwood city area, including Amanda Elzy High School.

Pillow Academy, a private school, is located in unincorporated Leflore County, near Greenwood. It was originally a segregation academy.34

Notable people

Furry Lewis

See also

References

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