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Indian Roadtrip

Next Stop: Greenwood, Mississippi

Still trying to make up for the loss of my 3 days from hell, I’m on my way Greenwood,Mississippi.

Greenwood is a city in and the county seat of Leflore County, Mississippi, located at the eastern edge of the Mississippi Delta. It was a center of cotton planter culture in the 19th century. Throughout the 1960s, Greenwood was the site of major protests and conflicts as African Americans worked to achieve racial integration and voting access during the civil rights movement.

The flood plain of the Mississippi River has long been an area rich in vegetation and wildlife, fed by the Mississippi and its numerous tributaries. Long before Europeans migrated to America, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian nations settled in the Delta’s bottomlands and throughout what is now central Mississippi. They were descended from indigenous peoples who had lived in the area for thousands of years, including the Mississippian culture, which built earthwork mounds beginning about 950CE.

In the nineteenth century, the Five Civilized Tribes in the Southeast suffered increasing encroachment on their territory by European-American settlers from the United States. Under pressure from the United States government, in 1830 the Choctaw principal chief Greenwood LeFlore and other Choctaw leaders signed the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, ceding most of their remaining land to the United States in exchange for land in Indian Territory, what is now southeastern Oklahoma. The government opened the land for sale and settlement by European Americans. LeFlore came to regret his decision to sign away his people’s land, saying in 1843 that he was “sorry to say that the benefits realized from [the treaty] by my people were by no means equal to what I had a right to expect, nor to what they were justly entitled.”

The first Euro-American settlement on the banks of the Yazoo River was a trading post founded in 1834 by Colonel Dr. John J Dilliard and known as Dilliard’s Landing. The settlement had competition from Greenwood Leflore’s rival landing called Point Leflore just three miles up the Yazoo River. The rivalry ended when Captain James Dilliard donated parcels in exchange for a commitment from the townsmen to maintain an all-weather turnpike to the hill section to the east along with a Stage Road to the more established settlements to the North West.

In 1844 it was incorporated as “Greenwood“, named after Chief Greenwood LeFlore. Founded during a strong international demand for cotton, the city’s success was based on its strategic location in the heart of the Delta: on the easternmost point of the alluvial plain and astride the Tallahatchie and the Yazoo rivers. The city served as a shipping point for cotton to major markets in New Orleans, Vicksburg, Mississippi, Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis. Thousands of slaves were brought as laborers to Mississippi from the Upper South, in a forced migration that moved more than one million slaves in total to the Deep South to satisfy the demand for labor, as cotton cultivation spread to these new territories of the Southeast. Greenwood continued to prosper, based on slave labor on the cotton plantations and in shipping, until the latter part of the American Civil War.

The end of the Civil War in 1865 and the following years of Reconstruction changed the labor market to one of free labor. The state was mostly undeveloped frontier, and many freedmen withdrew from working for others. In the nineteenth century, many blacks managed to clear and buy their own farms in the bottomlands. With the disruption of war and changes to labor, cotton production initially declined, reducing the city’s previously thriving economy.

The construction of railroads through the area in the 1880s revitalized the city, with two rail lines running to downtown Greenwood, close to the Yazoo River, and shortening transportation to markets. Greenwood again emerged as a prime shipping point for cotton. Downtown’s Front Street bordering the Yazoo filled with cotton factors and related businesses, earning that section the name Cotton Row. The city continued to prosper in this way well into the 1940s, although cotton production suffered during the infestation of the boll weevil in the early 20th century. For many years, the bridge over the Yazoo displayed the sign, “World’s Largest Inland Long Staple Cotton Market”.

The industry was largely mechanized in the 20th century before World War II, displacing thousands of sharecroppers and tenant farmers. Since the late 20th century, some Mississippi farmers have begun to replace cotton with corn and soybeans as commodity crops; the textile manufacturing industry shifted overseas and they can gain stronger prices for the newer crops, used mostly as animal feed.

Greenwood’s Grand Boulevard was once named one of America’s 10 most beautiful streets by the U.S. Chambers of Commerce and the Garden Clubs of America. Sally Humphreys Gwin, a charter member of the Greenwood Garden Club, planted the 1,000 oak trees lining Grand Boulevard. In 1950, Gwin received a citation from the National Congress of the Daughters of the American Revolution in recognition of her work in the conservation of trees.

 

Did you know..?

The Help | Behind the Scenes | Greenwood, Mississippi from Jim Albritton on Vimeo.

Produced by Jim Albritton | The Help, a movie based on Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling book, was primarily filmed in Greenwood, Mississippi. The small delta town played host to actors and crew for more than two months and served as a backdrop for the movie which is set in Jackson, Mississippi. Get the inside story, go behind the scenes and see the locations that appear in the film. For more stories about The Help, go to https://newsocracy.tv.

Morgan Freeman..

Morgan Freeman was born on June 1, 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee. He has three older siblings. According to a DNA analysis, some of his ancestors were from Niger. Freeman was sent as an infant to his paternal grandmother in Charleston, Mississippi.He moved frequently during his childhood, living in Greenwood, Mississippi; Gary, Indiana; and finally Chicago, Illinois.When Freeman was 16 years old, he almost died of pneumonia.

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