Tupelo unveils civil rights marker

By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Residents gathered downtown Friday to commemorate the legacy of brave men and women who participated in the civil rights movement in Tupelo during the 1960s.
The Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau unveiled the initial marker for the Civil Rights & African American Heritage trail, part of the new Heritage Trails Enrichment Program. The first marker is located in front of the mural at Reed’s Gumtree Bookstore downtown Tupelo, the site of the old F.W. Woolworth store.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and Councilwoman Nettie Davis spoke at the unveiling. Reed said the purpose of the civil rights trail in Tupelo is to lift up the role that Tupeloans played during the historic movement.
Neal McCoy, director of the Tupelo CVB, said he realized the history of the movement in Tupelo had not been fully recorded and was inspired to pursue this project. McCoy said the project will offer an important platform “for those who went through this struggle. They have an opportunity to tell their story.”
The Rev. Robert Jamison of Tupelo participated in a sit-in at Woolworth’s in Tupelo in the 1960s. The sit-in was one of many staged around the country to protest Woolworth’s policy to racially segregate seating at lunch counters.
Jamison said the protest in Tupelo was peaceful, compared to others around the South that often resulted in violence and arrests. He credited that to “good-thinking, true individuals” in the city.
Davis said she did not participate in the protest at the Tupelo store but she did participate in others while in college in Nashville and was once even arrested.
“When I got in that jail, I wanted my mama,” she said. “I was scared but I didn’t show anything.”
The marker near Reed’s bookstore is the first installed as part of the Heritage program. Others will be installed at historically significant sites around the city, including Spring Hill church. The program will include a civil war and Chickasaw Nation trails in addition to the civil rights trail.
sarah.robinson@journalinc.com