1961: David Donald’s biography Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War receives Pulitzer Prize.

The Goodman Mississippi native’s 1960 biography of the abolitionist statesman Charles Sumner received a Pulitzer Prize.  In 1988, Donald was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for  his biography Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe.

January 31, 1961: James Meredith applies to University of Mississippi, telling the registrar he is black

James Meredith (MDAH Collection)
James Meredith

Image:  From the files of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission.

Link to the catalog

February 4, 1961: University of Mississippi rejects James Meredith’s application

March 21, 1961: Jackson Municipal Library sit-in held

Tougaloo Nine (MDAH Collection)
Tougaloo Nine

Nine Tougaloo students went to the “white” library, where they quietly read and looked for books not available at the “colored” library. The police were called and told the students to leave. When the nine refused, the police arrested them.

Link to the catalog

March 28, 1961: Tougaloo students appear at courthouse

After being held in jail for over 30 hours for ”breaching the peace” at the Jackson Municipal Library, the Tougaloo students were tried and convicted. They were ordered to pay a $100 fine and were given a 30-day suspended sentence.

May 4, 1961: Freedom Rides begin

Integrated groups of Freedom Riders organized by the Congress of Racial Equality traveled through the South challenging segregation on buses and in bus stations.

May 24, 1961: Freedom Riders arrive in Jackson

Old Greyhound Bus Station.
Old Greyhound Bus Station.

The Freedom Riders were immediately arrested by the police while trying to integrate interstate travel facilities in Jackson, including the Greyhound and Trailways bus stations, the Illinois Central train station, and the municipal airport at Hawkins Field.

Image:  The Old Greyhound Bus Station is now an architect’s office and the site of a Mississippi Freedom Trail Marker commemorating the history of the building. The Trailways Bus Station was demolished in 1976 to construct the Davis Planetarium.

Link to the catalog

May 26, 1961: Freedom Riders convicted

Appeal bond of James L. Farmer, organizer of the Freedom Rides (MDAH Collection)
Appeal bond of James L. Farmer, organizer of the Freedom Rides

Freedom Riders were found guilty of breach of peace and fined $200 and given a 60 day suspended sentence. Refusing to admit guilt by paying the fine or posting bail, the riders chose to remain in jail for 39 days. Hoping to break Mississippi law enforcement, more riders arrived and took the “jail no bail” stance flooding the jails.  Riders were eventually sent to Parchman to serve out their sentence.

Link to the catalog

August 1961: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) worker Robert Moses directs voter registration drive in Pike County

SNCC Button
SNCC Button

September 25, 1961: Herbert Lee murdered by Rep. E. H. Hurst at cotton gin outside Liberty

Westbrook Cotton Gin; National Register Nomination Photo

Lee had helped Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leader Bob Moses register African American voters.

Link to the catalog

October 4, 1961: High school students jailed in McComb

Ike Lewis and Brenda Travis were refused admittance to school after their August arrest at the McComb Greyhound station. More than 100 McComb high school students to walked out in protest and marched on city hall. Surrounded by an angry mob, the students knelt to pray on the City Hall steps. Police arrested 116 African American students for breach of peace. 97 students (under the age of eighteen) were released.  The 19 “adults,” including SNCC workers, were arrested for breach of peace and contributing to the delinquency of minors.

October 25, 1961: NASA announces national rocket test site in Hancock County

Named the Mississippi Test Operations, the facility was built to test Saturn V rockets that would later take Americans to the moon during the Apollo program.  The MTO was renamed several times throughout its history and is now known as the John C. Stennis Space Center.

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