Seven markers throughout Downtown Tupelo make up the Civil Rights and African American Heritage Trail. These markers tell the stories of the Tupelo black community and the people who stood against injustices and fought for equality during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.
131 W. Main St.
Located by Reed’s Bookstore, the F.W. Woolworth Company was once a local lunch counter and protest commonplace. Once the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, Tupelo’s Woolworth store announced its plan to “serve all its customers in all of its stores on a desegregated basis.”
Spring Hill Missionary
593 N. Green St.
This Baptist church is one of the oldest surviving church buildings in Tupelo. While still a place of worship, during the Civil Rights Movement Spring Hill became a place where political awareness and social progress were informed and encouraged. During the Civil Rights marches of 1976 and 1979, protesters began at Spring Hill and progressed down Green Street to Downtown Tupelo.
Green Street Business District.
Corner of 1000 N. Green St. and 400 Tolbert Street
Due to segregation in the early part of the 20th century, the Green Street Business District served as an anchor in the African-American community in Tupelo. Restaurants, clubs, barber shops, convenience stores, and churches lined the business district from Barnes Street to Spring Street. Towards the latter half of the century when stores and shops became desegregated, residents branched outside of their neighborhoods to shop. Slowly, the Green Street business district shut down.
910 N. Green St.
Built in 1939, Carver School originally served as the primary education center for Tupelo’s African American children. While Brown vs. Board of Education did not affect Carver School until 1965, eventually the Federal Government mandated the desegregation of all schools in the South. Carver then became the school for all ninth-grade students in Tupelo, both black and white. Today, Carver serves an elementary school and continues to educate children in the Tupelo community.
Corner of Jackson St. and N. Madison
Built in 1927, Robins field served as Tupelo High School’s football field until 1991. Up until the Civil Rights Movement, the state champion all-black Carver High School team played here on Saturday nights, while the white Tupelo High School team played on Friday. On game days, black and white crowds alike came to see the award-winning “G.W. Carver Band” parade down the streets. Once Tupelo High School fully integrated, students were able to excel academically and athletically together.
R.C. Cola Plant/Dixie Belle Theater
106 Franklin St. / 407 Spring St.
The Dixie Belle Theater was a staple piece in the African American community during the 1950’s. The 300-seat theater was a popular spot to catch a movie or see live performances of blues, jazz, and R&B artists.
Now a law firm, the Royal Crown Cola bottling plant marked the spot of the “March of Discontent.” The Tupelo Civic Improvement Club, an organization of African-American citizens lobbying for social equality, marched from the Green Street Business district until they met a police barricade at the R.C. Cola Plant.
Bancorp South Arena (west side)
Said to have inspired a young Elvis, the Shake Rag community was known for their musical spirit and tendency to dance into the early hours of the morning. The poverty-stricken community was eventually burned down and relocated in 1962 as a part of a federal mandate to improve living conditions for poor.