Leflore County, Mississippi
|Leflore County, Mississippi|
Leflore County Courthouse
Location in the state of Mississippi
Mississippi's location in the U.S.
|Named for||Greenwood LeFlore|
|• Total||606 sq mi (1,570 km2)|
|• Land||593 sq mi (1,536 km2)|
|• Water||14 sq mi (36 km2), 2.3%|
|• Density||55/sq mi (21/km²)|
|Time zone||Central: UTC-6/-5|
Leflore County is a county located in the U.S. state of Mississippi. As of the 2010 census, the population was 32,317. The county seat is Greenwood. The county is named for Choctaw leader Greenwood LeFlore.
Leflore County, which is largely rural, is noted for having the highest level of child poverty of any county in the United States. Mechanization of agriculture reduced jobs available for many workers in the county and there are few opportunities. The population has declined dramatically since its peak in 1930.
Leflore County was formed in 1871 from portions of Carroll, Sunflower and Tallahatchie counties. It was named for Greenwood Leflore, a Choctaw chief. During the period of Indian Removal in the 1830s, he was one of the chiefs who signed the Treaty of 1830, by the terms of which the Choctaw sold to the US their remaining lands east of the Mississippi River. Most Choctaw migrated to the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), but Leflore and some other remained in Mississippi. He became a state and US citizen, a planter with African-American slaves, and served at times as a politician.
The area of Leflore County with its rich soil attracted many American families from across the Southeastern States in the United States. With them also arrived many of their family slaves. The soils richness soon gained the attention of a number of large planter families who brought large numbers of slaves further increasing the black population. These small and medium sized planters together with the large numbers of yeoman farmers transformed the area into one of the richest in the country. For the next generation the county prospered until the Civil War.
The war severely effected both the economy and culture of the county. Many of its American inhabitants, lost their lives in the war or come home disabled. What they found when they returned was a community torn asunder. The big plantations were barely functioning and many of their black slaves dispersed. The smaller sized planters fared worse. Although most slaves remained with their masters families having usually grown around them over generations, the capital stock to keep the plantations functioning was gone. Local banks and businesses sere likewise crippled at best or destroyed. Much worse all debts previously owed or developed during the war was still considered valid. Massive fiscal and landed insolvency was the order of the day. The area was in a state of prostrate depression.
Following the American Civil War, the State of Mississippi wrote and signed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery and was re admitted into the Union. For the next three years the State struggled to get back on its feet whilst it's Congressional delegation fought with Radical Republicans just to be seated in the Congress. Despite all assurances of the armistice and peace agreements ending the war, as well as their democratic constitutional status the Radicals were determined to reduce the Southern states. Subsequently, the Radical dominated Congress arrested the State leaders and Congressional delegation and overthrew the civilian government of the state by armed force.
Under this military government, all Americans who had fought or served with the Confederacy were disenfranchised. Former Confederate leaders if they werent hunted down and arrested lost most of their rights including the right to own land. In turn the land itself was assessed new taxes, and former Confederates specifically had their land taxed at higher rates.
Under this military despotism, the Radical Republican rump Congress established Reconstruction government. Only freed slaves, some loyalist Americans and recently settled whites were given the right to vote, all others were disbarred or intimidated into not voting. Armed forces went about foreclosing on properties throughout the county and distributing to the Freedman. In return the Freedman were ordered to vote Republican.
During the Reconstruction era the majority-black population of freedmen in the county ruled under the aegis of white Republican administrators and military officials. Recently emancipated, few Freedman could read and none had experience in government. Consequently they ruled under the authority of Republican agents who backed up their power with military force. As a result the Freedman overwhelmingly depended upon the Republican Party and US Army for support.
This occupation threw the American society into tumult. Unable to vote, forced to pay ruinous taxation, and often driven from their lands, the former planter elite and yeoman farmers formed resistance groups to fight the occupation. Many groups became loosely affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan and Leflore County was no exception. By the 1870s the KKK led resistance and driven most Occupation government out of the county.
Then starting in the the mid-1870s, the paramilitary Red Shirts developed chapters in Mississippi. They worked to disrupt what remained of Republican meetings in the towns, suppressed in turn the black vote, drove most of the military out of the state and finally forced the remaining Republicans out of office.
Ultimately, northern public opinion turned against Reconstruction government with its litany of criminal corruption, disreputable scalawags, corrupt carpetbaggers, grafting Freedmen politicians. Additionally a long Depression hit the country and the cost of maintaining a patently undemocratic and anti white regime was unsupportable. Congress and the States removed most of the restrictions on Confederates, so that American Democrats could regain control of the state legislature.
In 1890 the state legislature passed a new constitution that restored many of the antebellum policies of the past, including the poll tax and literacy tests. However in honor of their defense for the State, veterans of the Confederacy were exempt from these restrictions, such that many of the poor and subsistence farmers and laborers were able to vote. Additionally, they allowed to vote anyone who had previously been allowed to vote before the war which favorably helped white and black planters who had not served in the war because of age or disability or service related exemption. However, over time as the number of veterans and antebellum voters died off the percentage of persons voting began to decline.
Meanwhile, the agricultural economy was slowly restored. The surviving planter class rebuilt its power and reputation, developing a new alliance with the city elite in establishing an economic redevelopment plan. For the next forty years, the county saw old mills restored, cotton and other cash crops back to antebellum production levels, restoration of small town economies and a general period of prosperity.
Nonetheless this upward development suffered setbacks. The Bull Weevil outbreak brought new rural depression. A number of floods displaced more rural populations, collapse of commodity prices after WWI was only just recovering when the Great Depression hit.
As a result of these setbacks large numbers of white farmers and laborers left the area further reducing the voter rolls. To staunch the flow, the county and state set up new programs to alleviate economic hardships with grants and lending, whilst poll tax.barriers were reduced to bring the middle and poor rural voice into politics.
Whilst this turned back the losses to voter rolls in the white population it did not in the black population. As the black population ratio of the citizenry increased given their inability or unwillingness to pay the poll tax the percentage of voter declined despite reforms. As a result, power increasingly began shifting back toward middle and upper class planters of the region.
Meanwhile, during the Great Depression, the migration of poor and middle class whites was joined by blacks, as many left the county to join, in the Great Migration to northern and midwestern cities in search of jobs and education: many people went north by train to Chicago, taking their music with them and changing the big city forever.
The rise in commodity prices during and after WWII restored economic normalcy. By the 1960s a modicum of prosperous stability had returned to the county after the mass upheaval of one after the other of War, Depression, Agricultural stagnation, migration, and the Great Depression.
However a new wave of agitation often called the Second Reconstruction was coming which would permanently change politics in the country and retard economic development. As with other parts of the majority-black Delta, Leflore County was a major site of activism and violence during the African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955–1968). In 1963, the county had over 13,000 blacks of legal voting age, and bit fewer than 270 were registered because of the rest were unable or unwilling to pass the literacy test and poll tax. As a result of this cultural response to the law, blacks essentially been uninvolved in the county since 1890. In contrast, the law poll tax and relative ease of the literacy test enabled the more civic minded white community realize upwards of 95% of eligible white voters being registered.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee decided it would intervene to get blacks registered without taking the literacy test or paying the poll tax. It moved its headquarters to Greenwood and was warned that by organizing without a license and operating as a foreign entity the Committee was liable for arrest. Despite the warning the Committee carried on its activities and in March of 1963, eight SNCC members were arrested while trying to register voters.
The United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division filed suit against the city of Greenwood and Leflore county to obtain their release. The petition was denied by a local court, but the city of Greenwood entered into a voluntary agreement to release the students. In June 1963, 45 residents of Itta Bena were arrested in Leflore County while marching to protest an attack on churches where voter registration drives were being held. The Civil Rights Division filed suit against the county to obtain their release as well, but to no avail.
Organizers and marchers returned in 1966 to the county as part of the March Against Fear, initiated by James Meredith, who was shot and wounded by a white man two days into the march. Major civil rights leaders and marchers from a variety of organizations vowed to continue his march of more than 220 miles from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi. By the time they reached Greenwood, several hundred persons were in the group and simply overwhelmed the authorities.
With mass disobedience occurring and essentially the occupation of the small towns in the region by demonstrators, the county board had cut off federal commodity subsidies to the black community, threatening their survival. SNCC helped organize a national gathering of food to overcome the boycott.
In 1966, Stokeley Carmichael, a new leader of SNCC, spoke in Greenwood for "Black Power", saying that blacks had to build their own political and economic power, as had Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants to the United States.
By 1972, the Black Civil Rights Movement had succeeded in paralyzing the small towns in the County. Federal intervention to stop authorities in restoring law and order had succeeded in leaving many towns ungovernable. When the Federal government passed an amendment ending poll taxes in federal elections and the Congress passed a law placing the County under direct Federal supervision, blacks were registered end mass and took over the county.
Subsequently as Federal desegregation was implemented in the schools and black on white crime increased, many whites left the area leaving the white community a minority. Most of the town businesses collapsed and only continued through subsidies provided by the State and Federal government. The county has never economically recovered from the Civil Rights period and remains one of the poorest counties in the entire country.
- Tallahatchie County (north)
- Grenada County (northeast)
- Carroll County (east)
- Holmes County (southeast)
- Humphreys County (southwest)
- Sunflower County (west)
National protected area
|U.S. Decennial Census
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 32,317 people residing in the county. 72.2% were Black or African American, 24.9% White, 0.6% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 1.5% of some other race and 0.6% of two or more races. 2.3% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race).
As of the census of 2000, there were 37,947 people, 12,956 households, and 8,887 families residing in the county. The population density was 64 people per square mile (25/km²). There were 14,097 housing units at an average density of 24 per square mile (9/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 30.00% White, 67.73% Black or African American, 0.11% Native American, 0.65% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.98% from other races, and 0.50% from two or more races. 1.90% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 12,956 households out of which 35.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.00% were married couples living together, 27.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.40% were non-families. 28.20% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.70 and the average family size was 3.33.
In the county the population was spread out with 29.70% under the age of 18, 13.10% from 18 to 24, 27.00% from 25 to 44, 18.20% from 45 to 64, and 11.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 92.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.50 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $21,518, and the median income for a family was $26,059. Males had a median income of $25,959 versus $18,497 for females. The per capita income for the county was $12,553. About 29.10% of families and 34.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 48.00% of those under age 18 and 24.50% of those age 65 or over.
Government and infrastructure
- Colleges and Universities
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- Hendrickson, Paul (2003). Sons of Mississippi. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40461-9.
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- Lynch, Adam (18 November 2009). "Ceara’s Season". Jackson Free Press. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
||Tallahatchie County||Grenada County|
|Sunflower County||Carroll County|
|Humphreys County||Holmes County|