Cochran, Graves help dedicate contraband statues

CORINTH – Dozens of people at the Corinth Contraband Camp on Saturday witnessed the dedication of life-size bronze statues at the historic site.
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James Graves were highlight speakers for the event, but several others spoke on the significance of the site and occasion.
Former slaves fled plantations and farms to take refuge at the camp, protected by the Union Army, which had established the refugee camps after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in late 1862.
The late Mayor Edward S. Bishop “so wanted this story to be told,” said Rosemary Williams, chairwoman of the Siege and Battle of Corinth Commission, which played a key role in developing Corinth’s Civil War sites.
Half a dozen life-size statues tell the visual story of a thriving community of as many as 6,000 former slaves who inhabited the camp off North Parkway Street. The Commission was able to acquire 21 acres of the site, which originally included more than 400 acres, Williams said.
“We celebrate the vision of the women and men who lived here, died here and experienced their first taste of freedom here,” Cochran said. “This is a new opportunity to let both school children and adults know the important role Corinth played in these events, and to allow the camp’s dwellers to assume their proper place in American history.”
Bobby and Jackie Capps of Iuka, with their teenage daughter Jessica, were among those who wanted to witness “this awesome thing, to be a part of history,” Jackie Capps said.
The family moved from Phoenix, Ariz., several years ago, and Bobby Capps, who is mission director at Church of the Crossroads, said they believe it’s important to celebrate all parts of the community.
“If it doesn’t include everyone it’s not community,” said Jackie Capps.
Churches, schools and families form the foundation of community in American society, Graves said. From its beginning, the contraband camp established a church, formed a school and was a beacon for families.
“Their vision 140 years ago still should be a model to us of the way our society ought to run,” Graves said. “We must renew and reconfirm a commitment to assure equal justice for all.”
Quoting American poet Archibald McLeish, Graves said, “There are those who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American Dream.”
Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.

Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal