The waters beside Biloxi, Mississippi, were tranquil on April 24, Hours earlier Black and other African-Americans had congregated at the beach, playing games and soaking sunrays near the circuit of advancing and retreating tides. This ified no simple act of beach leisure, but group dissent.
Chaos and violence, though, quickly marred this particular demonstration. To comprehend how a beautiful beachfront became a laboratory for social unrest, consider Dr. A Jackson, Mississippi native, the general practitioner moved with his family after completing medical studies at Howard University and an internship in St. Gilbert Mason Jr. Still, gaining full privileges at Biloxi Hospital took 15 years. Here, change lagged.
In the early s, the U. Army Corps of Engineers fortified the beach to stem seawall erosion. Though the project employed taxpayer funds, blacks were relegated to mere swatches of sand and surf, such as those beside a VA Hospital. Homeowners claimed the beaches as private property—a view Mason vigorously disputed. While making a mark in medicine, Mason engaged in political discourse with patients, proposing ways they might support the still-nascent civil rights struggle.
A scoutmaster position brought him in contact with adolescents looking to lend their labor. These younger participants included Black and Clemon Jimerson, who had yet to turn 15 years old. Still, the injustice Jimerson endured dismayed him. Then we had to get off again, and go to the back door. That worried and bothered me.
For Jimerson, the protest was a family affair: his mother, stepfather, uncle and sister took part, too.
A civil rights watershed in biloxi, mississippi
Jimerson was so ebullient about participating, he purchased an ensemble for the occasion: beach shoes, bright shirt and an Elgin watch. Low attendance at the initial protest on May 14,wade-in hardly suggested a coming groundswell. Still, Mason Jr. The first protest was to see what exactly would be the true police response. Mason Sr. Felix Dunn in neighboring Gulfport.
Before the third wade-in, Mason directed protesters to relinquish items that could be construed as weapons, even a pocketbook nail file. Protesters split into groups, stationed near prominent downtown locales: the cemetery, lighthouse and hospital. Mason shuttled between stations, monitoring proceedings in his vehicle. Some attendees, like Jimerson, started swimming. Wilmer B. McDaniel, operator of a funeral home, carried softball equipment.
Black and Jimerson anticipated whites swooping in—both had braced for epithets, not an arsenal. We were overwhelmed by their s.
They came like flies over the area. One member of the approaching white mob soon struck McDaniel—the opening salvo in a brutal barrage. You better not let him get away. I said my prayer and balled my fist.
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After the melee, Dr. Mason treated injured patients. Jimerson searched with his stepfather for his newly purchased ensemble, only to find it part of a pyre, burning within a white column of smoke. When night fell, riots rose up.
White mobs rolled through black neighborhoods, issuing threats and firing guns. Not only deny them access, but inflict physical violence. The event was galvanizing. Though the wade-ins were sandwiched by the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins and the famed Freedom Riders, the protests have gone largely unheralded, even though they served as a litmus test for future segregation challenges.
Current efforts have further commemorated this struggle. The year prior, a stretch of U. Highway 90 was named after Mason. Governor Winter hopes the overdue recognition continues. Black echoed and extended this sentiment. Continue or Give a Gift. SmartNews History. History Archaeology.
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