During the Civil Rights Movement, the State of Mississippi took a leading role in many of the protests, sit-ins, and marches that positively impacted the course of the country’s history forever. In Starkville specifically, there are several places to learn about the Civil Rights Movement. This Black History Month, take some time to reflect on our country’s history and magnify your knowledge about the Civil Rights Movement at these three Starkville landmarks and learning hubs.
Get a solid overview of the Civil Rights Movement in Starkville at Unity Park. The commemorative park was created by citizens who recognized the importance of honoring individuals from Oktibbeha County who contributed to the Civil Rights Movement. The park features exhibits dedicated to Civil Rights heroes Dr. Douglas L. Conner, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Governor William Winter, Medgar Evers, and Fannie Lou Hamer. Each honoree is memorialized with a photo, quote, and description of their contributions to the movement. In addition, the park features a plaque commemorating the Game of Change on March 15, 1963, which marked the first basketball tournament game played by a Mississippi State University team against a team with black players. The park serves as a public gathering space and an important landmark today.
Mitchell Memorial Library at Mississippi State University
One of the best resources for learning about Starkville’s rich civil rights history is Mississippi State University. The public institution was founded in 1878 but wouldn’t become integrated until almost 100 years later when Richard Holmes became the first Black student to enroll in 1965. Today, the university has many programs and resources dedicated to teaching civil rights history. At the Mitchell Memorial Library, check out the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library and The Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana. The Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library includes a museum dedicated to our country’s 18th president, where you can take a self-guided tour and learn more about his command of the Union army during the Civil War and his implementation of Congressional Reconstruction as president. At The Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana, learn about the life of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War from a massive collection of documents, books, artifacts, and paintings, and statuary dedicated to the two.
A Shaky Truce: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Starkville
For a deep dive into a specific portion of Starkville’s decades-long civil rights struggle, check out Mississippi State’s digital oral and public history project, A Shaky Truce. The site was built by faculty and students at MSU’s History Department and Libraries. It tells the story of Starkville’s fight for civil rights, with an emphasis on school desegregation through archival documents and recorded oral history interviews. The project is divided into three parts—The Place, The People, and The Struggle—each focusing on a different aspect of the movement.
The stories of Starkville and Oktibbeha County are made richer thanks to the incredible contributions of local civil rights activists and champions. We continue to honor the steps toward equality in Starkville through our parks, monuments, and museums. For other unforgettable experiences to have in Starkville, read our article “30 Best Things To Do In Starkville.”