Mound Bayou, MS. an incorporated American Black Town


Cottonseed Mill opening
Date: 
Thu, 1887-11-17

This date from 1887 celebrates Mound Bayou, Mississippi, one of the first incorporated Black Towns in the United States.

The town is of national historical significance because it is representative of the many towns established by Blacks who migrated from the south to northern and western communities after slavery. Located in Bolivar County in the Mississippi Delta, it was established by two former slaves, Isaiah T. Montgomery and his cousin Benjamin Green. They created a refuge for Blacks from the many white-controlled cotton plantations at a time known for deadly racial violence. Montgomery, Green, and the other early Black pioneers built the town in the uninhabited wilderness and created a thriving, important historic community.

It was begun in part as a defenses from whites of bayou-country in the area. In 1900, 287 people with over 1,500 Black farmers lived in the vicinity. Booker T. Washington took part in some of its economic development, which included the nation’s only Black-owned cottonseed mill (shown). Mound Bayou also had a railroad station (where the "colored" waiting room was larger than the "white" waiting room), a newspaper, many churches, schools, a bank, a telephone exchange, and other Black-owned businesses and industries.

Nearly everyone in and around Mound Bayou could read, a remarkable status for anyone in Mississippi in the late 19th century. Around 1900, President Theodore Roosevelt called Mound Bayou “the Jewel of the Delta.” Recently the people of Mound Bayou, wanting to share their rich history, hosted a public dig with the University of Southern Mississippi. The site they dug was the location of Mound Bayou's first city hall and mayor's office. Together they unearthed interesting artifacts with the help of many young Blacks in the Mound Bayou area.

Reference:
The African American Desk Reference
Schomburg Center for research in Black Culture
Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.
ISBN 0-471-23924-0

Mound Bayou