Mound Bayou, Mississippi – The Jewel of the Delta

Yesterday, StoryCorps Griot traveled south on old Route 61 into Mississippi to record interviews in Mound Bayou. The city, proudly described by local residents as “Jewel of the Delta,” is the oldest all black municipality in the United States. It was founded in 1887 by Isaiah T. Montgomery and his cousin, Benjamin T. Green. Montgomery and Green were both former slaves of Joseph Davis, brother of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Isaiah T. Montgomery was elected as the first mayor. He started a tradition of black government that persists to the present day. Mound Bayou was founded to serve as a sanctuary for African- American families and culture. The Founders helped to make the dream of creating a successful, self-sufficient and cooperative community of freedmen a reality. By the turn of the century Mound Bayou was exporting $30,000 in cotton a year. Its residents owned 5,000 acres of rich, prime farm and timber land, with an estimated worth of $20,000.

Mound Bayou was an oasis in turbulent times.

While the rest of Mississippi was violently segregated, inside the city there were no racial codes. The train station depot was the only exception. Delta residents received medical attention and mothers safely and successfully gave birth to their children at Taborian Hospital, a state of the art medical facility, built with support by Tufts University Medical Center. Medgar Evers sold insurance here, before becoming National Field Secretary of the NAACP. Maime Till stayed in Mound Bayou while in Mississippi for the trial of the savage killing of her son, Emmett Till. At a time when blacks faced repercussions as severe as death for registering to vote, Mound Bayou residents were casting ballots in every election. The city has a proud history of banks, credit unions, insurance companies, a hospital, five newspapers, and a variety of businesses owned, operated, and patronized by black residents.

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Mound Bayou is a crowning achievement in the struggle for self-determination and economic empowerment. Many grateful thanks to participant Eulah L. Peterson, PhD., Mound Bayou Alderwoman and Vice Mayor, for inviting StoryCorps Griot to her historic city.


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18 Responses to “Mound Bayou, Mississippi – The Jewel of the Delta”

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  • I was born in Mound Bayou and have fond memories of the city as a child. I lived there for 9 years and my family moved to Leland Ms. I was a frequent visitor and enjoyed my home city of Mound Bayou. I so cherish the memories and am proud to have been born in this city.
    I am the grand-daughter of the late Nettie Caulfield-Satterfield. My grandchildren and greatgrands is checking this site to learn the history of this great city.

    Comment from Dollie Jefferson-Baines on April 11, 2013 at 1:08 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • This is a reply to Connie; did you happen to have a family member name Bill Vince? I am also from Mound Bayou, my maiden name is “McGee”. I graduated high scholl 1964.

    Comment from Ella Presley on January 19, 2012 at 1:07 am - Reply to this Comment
  • My maternal grandmother and grandfather were from Mound Bayou and raised her children there for about 12 years before relocating to Lexington, Kentucky. I was 18 years old, now 60, before I knew that they were in fact from there. There is very little info from any of these people but some cousins from a neighboring town Wynonna have reater pride in their post slavery roots! I want to learn more about Mississippi and since I have never been there I do want to visit possibly next summer!

    Comment from Kimosha Murphy on January 12, 2012 at 10:34 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • I Have heard a lot of stories about Mounnd Bayou Mississippi ,and how beautiful it is ,from my understanding I have a lot of family there.
    My Gran-Father Clarence Williams and great Uncle Pruitt.I would like to visit there some day .

    Comment from Latrina Williams on January 8, 2012 at 10:53 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • I’m very interested about every bit of history I could get on Mound Bayou. Both of my parents are from Mound Bayou. I visit every chance I get and where ever I travel, I take Mound Bayou with me. I feel that the world should know the deep rich history of this wonderful city. When I traveled through Europe, I was surprise to find out that the Europeans study Cities in Mississippi. Mound Bayou was one of them.

    Comment from Michael Norwood on September 18, 2011 at 2:17 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • I am always very interested and proud at the same time to read anything about Mound Bayou. I used to listen to my grandmother Nancy Vince tell us stories about how she grew up there, the daughter of share cropper Jack and Millie Vince. The more I hear about Mound Bayou, the more convinced I am that it’s history should be known to all. Thank you for this site.

    Comment from Connie on July 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • This along with reading other published articles about Mound Bayou while looking into my family history has inspired great pride. I am looking for any and all information that may be in local records associated with the name William Baird and Sarah Ishmael who married and gave birth to Rosie Baird. I believe this time to be around the late 1880′s but there is no record of them in any census records that I can find. He was a Professor who taught music and also was a high school teacher.

    Comment from Flynn Spears on April 3, 2010 at 4:30 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • My family is from Mound Bayou: as small child I heard story about family farm. 3 years ago, I came down.My family name Aldridge. I was dreading in old paper in the libary about the founding father of Mound Bayou My Great Great GrandFather Lawnce Aldridge was one of them, I would like a copy of that paper, July 1971 name of the paper The Voice.
    Sondra

    Comment from Sondra Mose Ursery on September 10, 2009 at 9:54 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • I JUST WANT TO THANK STORY CORPS FOR THE ARTICLE ON MOUND BAYOU. PRICELESS !

    I NEVER HEARD OF THE TOWN UNTIL A READ AN ARTICLE ABOUT SAM COOKE TODAY. VERY INTERESTING STORY THAT I SHARE WITH MY GRANDCHILDREN, FAMILY AND FRIENDS !
    A STORY AS THIS SHOULD BE PUBLISHED AND USED IN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SCHOOLS AS ENCOURAGEMENT TO ALL CHILDREN.

    MY FATHER’S FAMILY(FARR) WERE SLAVES FROM SPARTENBURG, SC
    IN FACT MY GRANDMOTHER BERTHA FARR HAD A PICTURE OF SLAVE OWNERS IN HER HOME! SHE BELIEVE YOU HAD TO KNOW WHERE YOU CAME FROM SO THAT YOU KNEW WHERE YOU WERE GOING !

    GOD BLESS AND CONTINUE WRITING.

    HELEN FARR-PATTERSON
    FORT CAMPBELL, KENTUCKY
    AUGUST 5, 2009

    Comment from HELEN FARR-PATTERSON on August 5, 2009 at 6:10 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • I am a proud resident of the city of Mound Bayou. I am happy to know that our city has had a positive impact on some of those who have visited. However, I read a news article about the St. Dominic Regional High School student’s visit to our city and it was quite disturbing. The comments about our city were descriptive of a place that I don’t recognize. I applaud the students for their service to others, but I abhor the characterizations that they reported to the news media about the conditions of our beloved city.

    Comment from Anita Norwood on May 2, 2009 at 1:13 am - Reply to this Comment
  • i live in mound bayou with my family. the woodson family. i read so many story about mound bayou but i never heard anyone talk about my brother who was kill by the highway patrole police in 1965 . from mary woodson aug 09/2008

    Comment from mary woodson on August 9, 2008 at 10:16 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • I have heard many stories about this town. My gramdfather bought 110 acres west of town. He got a clear title in the early 30′s and it’s still in family hands.

    Comment from Wendell chapman on July 17, 2008 at 7:57 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Thanks a lot for sharing a piece of our history with the readers. I was raised in the wonderful town of Mound Bayou and I love telling people about it.

    Comment from Marquita L. James on February 19, 2008 at 9:20 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • I have a story that might be interesting to some:

    I had the pleasure of visiting Mound Bayou in April of 2007 with Mission Mississippi from St. Dominic Regional High School in Auburn, Maine. Each year a group of students volunteers to travel to Mound Bayou and do some fix up work for the town. I was a chaperon.

    At our first dinner a man named Jackie gave a bit of history of Mound Bayou. I listened with interest when he stated the town had been founded by the freed slaves of Joe Davis, brother of Jefferson Davis. My interest came from the fact that the sister of Joe and Jeff Davis was my great grandmother (that makes me their great, great nephew…I think). I had several great conversations with community members about their memories of hearing their ancestors talk of Joe and Jeff Davis.

    I spent the next week doing volunteer work for the relatives of my relatives freed slaves. Life is interesting to say the least.

    I will be going back in a couple of years with my daughter (also at St. Dom’s).

    I hope you enjoyed the story.

    BTW: I love StoryCorps and thanks for visiting Mound Bayou. It’s history is worth keeping!

    Kevin

    Comment from Kevin Polk on February 10, 2008 at 4:53 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • I do not doubt that there are so many other cities with similar histories around the country. Thanks to StoryCorp and their supporters for providing the resources to share the story of Mound Bayou. It would be great to see any archived images of this city.

    Also, who gave it its name?

    Thanks again for sharing this valuable information.

    -O

    Comment from Ophelia Brown on December 26, 2007 at 10:35 am - Reply to this Comment
  • Interesting stuff from a part of the country you don’t often hear from..it sounds as though this story hasn’t been fully told and I would like to learn more, does anyone else know of other interesting websites?

    Comment from Dillon Colucci on November 27, 2007 at 1:09 am - Reply to this Comment
  • Hello,

    Thank so much for sharing our story! Please note spelling of my last name.

    Comment from Eulah L. Peterson, Ph.D. on November 25, 2007 at 1:13 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • This is a wonderful piece of Black History, unknown probably to most!
    It was to me ….

    Thank you for sharing this information and I would certainly like to know more.
    Are there any publsihed works regarding the town and it’s establishers?
    Please advise.

    If not … then it is time for someone to start writing!

    Thanks again!

    Comment from Sovonne Ukam on November 19, 2007 at 3:53 pm - Reply to this Comment

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