Holmes County

In Holmes County, we met many Civil Rights Trailblazers who helped Robert G. Clark become the first black elected to the Mississippi legislature in the 20th Century. We stood under the tree where the First 14 stood for three days, as they publicly attempted to register to vote. We heard stories about the struggles of those fighting for injustice and we gave a performance to a crowd at the vocational-technical school.

Reflections about Holmes County
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“A group of us had the opportunity to stay at a real-live home in Mississippi. I was honored to stay at Miss Zep’s house. Miss Zep is the daughter of Bernice and Eugene Montgomery, who were Civil Rights leaders in Holmes County. As we drove up, the dogs were barking and the sun was shining and it really felt like the South. She made amazing home-cooked food; her house was beautiful; and she made us feel at home.” — Hodan Jibrell

There is no big museum to visit, there are no plaques marking historical homes or historical highways, nor is there a grand march that attracted us here. It’s just ‘lil ole Lexington, MS in Holmes County. Fortunately, we were able to scratch that surface to learn about how this community fought for their constitutional right to vote and helped get the first African-American elected to the Mississippi Legislature. Miss Zep had us sing the song “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.” The lyrics of this song accurately capture the attitude of civil rights leaders in Holmes County. It helped remind me that you don’t need some extravagant story like the ones of MLK or Rosa Parks in order to play a role in the movement. — Mike Kenyanya 

“I’m so glad we were able to stop in Holmes County. We met several movement leaders and some children of leaders. Holmes County is sometimes forgotten in Mississippi Civil Rights history, but we learned first hand how in 1967 they were able to elect Robert G. Clark, the first black to the Mississippi legislature in the 20th Century. They did it by coalition building — bringing the NAACP, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the professionals, and the farmers together to vote with one voice. Their story is an inspiration for us today.” — Cheryl Reitan