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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.​​​

was founded to supplement the work of the Demonstration program in the field of agricultural education; two women's societies were formed to "overlook the moral fiber of the community," and one of these societies, the Renovators Society, organized the first Founders Day Celebration in 1909; even the ministers of the community formed a union.

Many of these organizations probably participated in sponsoring the Bolivar County Negro Fairs, gala celebrations begun in 1910 as an effort to exhibit the best products of Black people. Moreover, many of these groups sponsored recreational activities such as baseball and instrumental groups, and were decisive in setting aside several areas designated as parks. This was the Mound Bayou of 1910, a growing, progressive all-Black community striving to achieve self-determination in a land where Black self-determination was not accepted at all. The next thirty years would see this determination weakened and progress halted to some extent.

Depression, Division and Racism

Despite the economic boom of the early 1900's, Mound Bayou faced special problems being an all-Black town in a white society, problems faced several years earlier by the colonists at Davis Bend. One of these problems was the lack of capital within Mound Bayou. Montgomery and Banks tried several schemes to eliminate this difficulty, one of which was to secure philanthropic Northern white investment, a measure which provided the least amount of external influence upon the community. Both men traveled around the country soliciting capital from the Black community, but the deepest problem lay within the town itself. Many residents started going to surrounding white communities to purchase their supplies, unwittingly contributing to the prevention of the accumulation of capital in Mound Bayou. To prevent this action, and also to provide" a healthy cooperative effort in Mound Bayou, Montgomery organized in 1911 the Farmer's Mercantile Cooperative, a merchandising store capitalized and controlled by Black farmers themselves. Successful to some degree, this store was clearly seen as an attempt to solve this delicate situation. For local whites were quite willing to receive this trade, as it helped to build their towns and not Mound Bayou. Moreover, they were glad to see Mound Bayou removed as an economic threat, and even contributed to it following the failure of the cotton economy beginning in the year of 1914.

Cotton prices had begun to fall slightly early in the year, but by the end of the year a rather mild depression hit the cotton-growing communities of the Delta. The Bank of Mound Bayou, which had heavy investments in loans to cotton planters, was placed in a situation where its ample assets could not be converted to cash. Though not a single irregularity of any kind was found on the books, the state banking authorities, in a completely illegal move, closed the Bank, charging that the Bank's securities were worthless due to the fact they 'represented Negro properties in a Negro town." When the Bank closed, many people in Mound Bayou were compelled to go white merchants and bankers for the funds to furnish themselves with supplies, and some of these merchants raised their interest rates, or stipulated that the farmer's cotton had to be taken to gins in their towns. The oil mill, Mound Bayou's pride and joy, suffered equally as badly. Due to the lack of capital Charles Banks was forced to sell the securities of the oil mill to a Northern white financier and a white Memphis businessman. The latter was selected as manager of the mill, but he proved to be a rogue, absconding with some of the money, in early 1915 the oil mill closed.

Nevertheless, the citizens of Mound Bayou were not the type to give up easily. In late 1915, after court case cleared the former bank of all the criminal charges, a new bank, the Mound Bayou State Bank was reopened. The oil mill was rented to a white and began its operations once again. This measure, in active opposition to the ideals of enterprise, was pushed on Montgomery and Banks because local whites began a highly successful boycott of the oil mill, and because on the national level, a cottonseed oil monopoly was actively working to eliminate the competition of such locally owned mills. The price of cotton, a commodity of great value to the war effort, began to increase radically, reaching a high point in 1919 of over 75 cents per pound. Montgomery once again saw the chance for Mound Bayou


Presley's Gin & Grocery Store, one of Mound Bayou's 40 businesses.
One of Mound Bayou's 6 churches. Churches were social centers in addition to being houses of worship. Churches were also responsible for starting schools in the community. 

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