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The Standing on the Shoulders of Giants "Teach & Learn" Black History Curriculum​​

Specially designed for Parents, Teachers, Homeschool, or Independent Study, grades 5+

Where Black
History Lives!​

Unit 7: Post-Reconstruction (1877 – 1935)

Class 1: Mound Bayou: One of the First All-Black Towns Founded by Formerly Enslaved Blacks  PART 1

Insipration Behind Mound Bayou cont.​​​

The Early Years

The early years were times of turmoil for the colonists. Faced with a seemingly impossible task, many of the early settlers were barely able to get by, while others left the colony entirely. However, from 1896 to 1914 this trend was almost completely reversed due to the immigration of large numbers of settlers, some of whom were escaping the "whitecaps" of southern Mississippi, a terrorist organization designed to displace Black landholders from their land. Montgomery also continued his advertising schemes, and held big celebrations on all holidays for the purpose of publicizing the growing town.

By 1898 the population of Mound Bayou had grown to such an extent that a certain group in town began clamoring for incorporation. At first there was a considerable opposition to incorporation, the argument being that incorporation would bring the loss of the pioneer spirit, as well as throw the burden of tax support upon the landholders. Nevertheless, the idea prevailed, and on August 16, 1898, Mound Bayou became an officially incorporated village with 183 registered voters. Isaiah T. Montgomery was appointed the first mayor; John W. Francis, George A. Lee, and James M. Marr were appointed aldermen; and William L. Grady and Alexander Myers were appointed marshal and treasurer, respectively.

The turning of the century marked the beginning of a substantial period of progress for the town of Mound Bayou. New settlers continued to flock to the community. Landholding by Black people increased not only in Mound Bayou, but also in Bolivar County as a whole; and as a result of the rising prices of cotton, the commercial life of Mound Bayou began to increase radically.

In 1903 Mound Bayou received its greatest stimulus with the arrival of one Charles Banks from Clarksdale. Only thirty years old, Banks was already a financial success, and a wizard in the handling of financial affairs. In 1904 Banks opened the Bank of Mound Bayou, one of the first Black-owned banks in the state of Mississippi. In 1905 he organized the Mississippi Negro Business League, and in 1907 held the first vice-presidency in the national organization headed by Booker T. Washington. His close relationship with Washington brought the wizard of Tuskegee to take a special interest in Mound Bayou. Washington visited Mound Bayou in 1907 and liked what he saw. From that day forth he was ever involved in attracting capital to Mound Bayou, and in fact, he wrote several articles about Mound Bayou, Charles Banks, and Isaiah Montgomery. By 1910 Mound Bayou had grown to half the size of Cleveland, was twice the size of Merigold, and was nearly equal in size to Shelby. The business life of the community centered about the production of cotton was booming. An article written in 1910 about Mound Bayou listed over 50 businesses as operating in the progressive town.

In 1907 Charles Banks, Isaiah Montgomery, and Booker T. Washington began organizing the proposition which was to be the ultimate reflection of the progress of Mound Bayou—The Mound Bayou Cotton—Seed Oil Mill. Billed nationally as an all-Black enterprise, the oil mill was endorsed willingly by the State Negro Business League in 1907, and Banks and Montgomery began to issue $100,000 worth of stock at $1 per share, hoping to amass the capital among the Black population of the country.

Mound Bayou placed big hopes on the oil mill project, and Banks told a group of would-be investors in 1910 that the oil mill was "to become one of the largest of its kind in the South, and will furnish employment to hundreds of energetic young colored men and women." The entrepreneurs were able to gather over $80,000 by 1912, and on November 26, 1912 the oil mill was dedicated during impressive ceremonies which included a speech by Booker T. Washington. One of the few Black-owned co-op mills in the country, the project exuded a confidence and a determination reflected in Washington' speech on the occasion:

You can occupy the soil for all time on one condition, and that is that through your brains, through your skilled hands, that you can prove to the 

Early Mound Bayou settlers clearing the wild land to make Mound Bayou habitable.
The Bank of Mound Bayou started by Charles Banks. This is a photo from 2011.

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