Focused on Mississippi: Oakes African American Culture

Focused on Mississippi

YAZOO CITY, Miss. (WJTV) – The Oakes African American Culture is located in Yazoo City. The house is sometimes called the Oakes Mansion, and it is a grandiose house.

The story of the house starts a decade before the Civil War when John Oakes, a free Black man in South Carolina, bought his wife, Mary, and her two children’s freedom, and they all moved to Yazoo City. Oakes then bought a plot of land that had a small house on it for his new family. Later on, his son, Augustus Oakes, started modifying the house. 

“He added on to it and added on to it until he got what you see now; the Oakes House,” said Margaret Harris, a board member of the Oakes House.

Augustus Oakes was keenly interested in education. He was principal of two schools before starting a private academy in Yazoo City for African American Children. Around 1900, he changed careers and went into construction and opened a lumber yard. He became a very successful businessman. 

“It kind of shows that no matter what your humble beginnings are if you work hard, you can achieve anything,” said Joffre Washington with the Yazoo County Fair and Civil League.

A devastating fire destroyed much of downtown Yazoo City and some of the residential area in 1904. Much of the material to rebuild Yazoo City was purchased from Gus Oakes’ lumber yard. When Yazoo City offered bonds for sale to build a school for African American children, he purchased all of the bonds to make sure that school would be a reality.

The Oakes House was donated to the Yazoo County Fair and Civic League in 1989. For years, it was used as a tour home and cultural center. The house is closed again for a new round of restoration. The Yazoo County Fair and Civic League is raising money to once again open the Oakes Home. 

“It means a lot, and we’re just so eager for it to come back alive, so we can start bringing activities here as we have done in the past,” said Juanita Lear, president of the Yazoo County Fair and Civil League.

If you or your organization would like to help bring the Oakes House alive again, contact the Yazoo County Fair and Civil League at (662) 746-7984.

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