MOUND BAYOU, Miss. (WJTV) – Driving through Mound Bayou today, it’s hard to believe this was one of the country’s first and largest African American towns in a segregated America founded by two cousins born into slavery.

“It’s way too important to let another generation go and not tell the story about Mound Bayou and really get it out there for how important it was during its hay day. When there was segregation in the south, Black people needed somewhere to go, and Mound Bayou was that place in the south,” said Mound Bayou Museum Director Herman Johnson Jr.

In the late 1800’s, after Union troops marched into north Mississippi and freed slaves in the area, Isaiah T. Montgomery and his cousin Benjamin T. Green, developed unoccupied swamp land, turning it to a thriving Black governed industrial town.

“We excelled. We exceeded. We were at the top. We knew that we were tops because we were told who we were, and we could see it. We would even go to other places and people would look at us and say, you must be from Mound Bayou, sometimes with a frown because we didn’t bow to them. We didn’t have to pull our hats off, not out of respect for your race. We would pull them off out of respect for ourselves and that was different,” said Daryll Johnson, co-founder of the museum.

Brothers Herman and Daryll Johnson established the Mound Bayou Museum in July 2021 to preserve the history of the prolific town. There are currently three sections.

One section shows images and documents from the town during its prime. The second section illustrates a racist time eluded by the people of Mound Bayou.

The final section of the museum features its newest exhibit, which features props from the limited series ‘Women of the Movement.’ The series told the story of Mammie Till’s fight for justice after the murder of her son.

“People from JET magazine, and the reporters from Philadelphia inquirer, the Chicago Defender and all the other reporters that were Black who came to this area to cover the trial, they all knew of Dr. Howard and they all knew of Mound Bayou.”

Dr. TRM Howard provided security and transportation for Till during her time in the Delta for Emmett Till trial.

The props were donated to the museum through the efforts of Iman Ali, a Mound Bayou native who worked as fill-in actress for the series.

The museum founders are hopeful the new exhibit attracts national attention and shed light on the story of the historic town.