Protest Gulf Coast Style  go to audio


One of the first areas of the Magnolia State to see organized direct action was the Gulf Coast. Movement activists in Gulfport, Moss Point, Biloxi, Pascagoula, and other small towns lining the beach, sought to rid themselves of the strangling discrimination that characterized their daily lives. With a strict code of segregation statutes firmly in place, white leaders on the Gulf Coast had often portrayed their region of the state as immune to the problems that beset the Mississippi Delta and other areas. Their efforts to attract more tourists, however, brought them face-to-face with blacks who were fed up with Jim Crow and their second-class citizenship. When Gulf Coast blacks sought to integrate the beaches, hotels, schools, restaurants, and jobs that whites had enjoyed for decades, they met a wall of intransigent whites intent on keeping them in "their place." As in other areas of the state, violence and bloodshed were common.


audio Click on the play button to hear the following excerpt.       Total time: 46 seconds

So the three of us, Eulice White, Joseph Austin, and I went before the board of supervisors. Dewey Lawrence Sr. was president of the board and he was very hostile. "If you go back down there again there's going to be bloodshed." And I told him—I don't know whether they quoted—that blood flowed in white folks' veins as well as in black folks' veins. And I told him we didn't come here to talk about blood, we're talking about—he said, "How much of the beach do you want?" I said, "The whole twenty-six miles, every damn inch of it." He said, "Well, can't we fix you up a separate beach or something?" I said, "No, we want twenty-six miles of it."

—Gilbert Mason Sr., discussing his struggle to desegregate the Mississippi Gulf Coast beaches