MOUND BAYOU, Miss. (WJTV) – Mound Bayou in Bolivar County was founded by freed slaves and was a thriving center for Black commerce and education for decades. Much of what influenced the Civil Rights Movement had roots in Mound Bayou.
Many Delta towns that came into existence were closely tied to cotton planting servicing. Mound Bayou was no different. The town quickly flourished, then began to wilt on the vine.
Isaiah Montgomery started the town in 1887, along with a group of other freed slaves who lived on Jefferson Davis’ brother Joe’s plantation south of Vicksburg. Montgomery took the managing skills he learned and brought them to the Delta. He instilled them into a town owned and completely run by Black people.
Mound Bayou quickly became a model village of commerce and education. Booker T. Washington visited Mound Bayou to give a speech at the opening of the cotton gin in 1914.
When cotton prices fell to record lows in the 1920s, Mound Bayou began to sink with it. Then, fire destroyed much of the downtown area in the 1930s. However, in the 1940s, the fraternal organization the Twelve Knights and Daughters of Tabor opened the Taborian Hospital.
The hospital’s chief surgeon was Dr. T.R.M. Howard. He became an early civil rights activist. A young Medgar Evers came to Mound Bayou to sell insurance at Dr. Howard’s insurance company and was introduced to the movement under Dr. Howard.
When 14-year-old Emmett Till was murder in 1955 in nearby Tallahatchie County, Dr. Howard became very outspoken after Till’s killers were freed by an all-white jury. One of his speeches was given at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Rosa Parks was in attendance. After hearing about Till from Dr. Howard, Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus the next week.
The building that housed the town’s Black-owned bank still stands. Mound Bayou’s cemetery is on the town green. The pioneers of the town, some born into slavery, are buried there. They cleared a spot for themselves out of the delta hardwoods and created a life. The roots have had a profound influence on our nation even today.
Today, Mound Bayou is famous for being the home of Peter’s Pottery.