In the small town of Money, Mississippi, a trail marker sits outside of a rundown grocery store in remembrance of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman. This event is often said to be the spark that galvanized the Civil Rights Movement.
Since then, courageous efforts of countless individuals through tumultuous times have paved the way for justice and equality. Through stops on the Mississippi Freedom Trail, currently at 30 markers spanning the entire state, visitors can learn about heroic stands like the Jackson Municipal Library Sit-In, when nine African Americans were arrested for using a whites-only library, and the Biloxi Beach Wade-In, where non-violent black demonstrators were attacked by a white mob.
On the campus of the University of Mississippi in Oxford, a marker commemorates James Meredith’s integration of the school in 1962. When state leaders ignored a federal order to desegregate, President John F. Kennedy mobilized the U.S. Army and federalized the National Guard to protect Meredith from rioting segregationists. Agents from the U.S. Department of Justice escorted him through a mass of opponents to the Lyceum, where he completed his registration and was admitted.
Markers for Amzie Moore in Cleveland, Fannie Lou Hamer in Ruleville and Rev. George Lee in Belzoni honor those who put their lives at risk to advance voting rights for African Americans in the state. In Itta Bena, 45 voting rights pioneers were tear gassed and arrested at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church for the alleged crime of “breach of peace,” and in the Olde Towne district of Clinton, a marker tells the story of the Clinton Massacre of 1875, where a political rally and debate between black Republicans and white Democrats turned violent and led to the deaths of 50 or more black citizens. A marker outside the Woolworth Chapel on the Tougaloo College campus in Jackson commemorates the actions of students during the Civil Rights Movement.