. . . a brief walk through & history of the struggle for human rights.
Early History Glendora, Mississippi is a small town located in Tallahatchie County , Mississippi . Tallahatchie, an Indian name meaning Rock River, was founded in 1833 by settlers crossing the Mississippi River through small Indian trails. The area now known as Glendora started out as an uninhabited sawmill site. Settlers from the village of Webb and other surrounding villages would transport logs downriver to be sawed and converted into lumber. People that worked at the mills and other related jobs began to develop the lumber industry as a way of living – settling only a few miles away near Black Bayou, a marshland forming the southern border of present-day Glendora . A railway station servicing a north-south rail line was built through this small sawmill territory in 1883 and was given the name Glendora . People began to locate there and established a functioning village with its own post office and voting precinct. Hence, a charter establishing the Village of Glendora, Mississippi was signed on March 19, 1900 by William Gay, the first mayor, and 85 residents.
With the inception of the incorporated town, a large saw mill operator, Cane Lake Lumber Company, was developed and operated until 1909. After the sawmill industry closed down and other settlers began moving in and developing the land, small farms and plantations were established. One of the unique features of these plantations was that most of them operated as small, separate, self-sustained and closed communities – with their own schools and church houses. There was very little interaction between plantation owners or field workers.
The mindset of the people and the structure of the town began to shift dramatically in the 1950s. The Brown v. the Board of Education, Topeka (1954) case, and the kidnapping, beating and lynching of Emmett Till (1955), sparked increased civil rights involvement from townspeople in Glendora . As this involvement grew, the practice and culture of social separatism (especially as experienced by African Americans) was increasingly viewed as a hindrance to surviving the times. As the world became more aware of these historic events, more & more visitors were attracted to Glendora to try and capture details surrounding the untold stories of Emmett Till. While some plantation owners in the region were fairly decent and housed civil rights workers and reporters during the Till trial, many others, fearful and irresolute on the impact of these events, eventually abandoned their property and moved out of the Glendora area altogether.
Subsequent to this, the business district in Glendora was dominated by Jewish business owners with a few plantation owners operating in Glendora , but living outside of the town. A series of fires that leveled the common wall structure of the town’s buildings destroyed most of these businesses and contributed, in large part, to a Jewish community out migration. The dilapidated and often unsafe structures were then sold to local African Americans. One such African American, Robert Hilson, acquired and redeveloped a significant portion of the property in Glendora , including the town district and the King Place , a multi purpose facility composed of a café, juke joint, an auto mechanic shop and apartments.
This era of heightened civil rights struggles was also accompanied by a greater appreciation for the Blues as an original African American cultural expression. Blues men & women harvested this musical expression, reflecting messages of the frustration, relief, fear and anxiety that they experienced in their day-to-day life in the Delta region of Mississippi . Glendora shared in the development of this rich cultural tradition. It is recognized as the birthplace of Aleck “Rice” Miller, also known as “Sonny Boy” Williamson II, the world renowned “King of the Blues Harmonica”.
African Americans continued to mobilize and participate in social and civil rights struggles that affected Glendora and its surrounding communities, including the on-going struggles for equality, fair treatment, voting rights and landownership that culminated in the Poor People’s Movement and the Mule Train in 1968. Most of the land in Glendora was farmland used by black farmers for the production of cotton and soybean. There were several factors that contributed to stifling the local economy for Black farmers and business owners, including mechanization of farm production, the closing of the Amtrak Railway Station, and the relocation of the main highway which provided access to this farm dependent community. Collectively, these trends left many farmers without a viable means to make a living. Consequently, the town of Glendora was essentially abandoned and isolated from the flourishing markets that were developing around them.
These racial, economic, and social tensions that occurred in Glendora , throughout Mississippi , and across the South opened up multiple channels for African Americans to speak out against injustices they experienced, and to advocate for more active involvement in the political process. Consequently, the Town of Glendora, Mississippi was the first town (of all the five municipalities in Tallahatchie County ) to elect black public officials. This included the first African American Mayor, the Honorable Henry L. Reese, and the first African American to serve on the Board of Alderman’s, Thomas A. Williams. The first African American organized society, the “Benevolent Aid and Burial Society” 1910, ten years after the Town was Incorporated which eventually developed chapters in every county, also emerged out of this tension.
Present Statistics The small community of Glendora holds rich historic value to the County of Tallahatchie and the State of Mississippi . According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Glendora has a population of approximately 285 people, most of which are property owners and still actively engage in the production of such commercial crops as corn, rice, soybean, and cotton. The genders of the town are almost split in half between male and female with nearly 60%, being youth. This increasing population of youth is evidence that Glendora , a small town in Mississippi , has the history, spirit and room to grow and become a self-sustained economic Mecca for all its citizens!