A Closed Society, 1941–1959

In his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt named four freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. World War II would reshape America. Communities, families, and individuals would be changed. Black citizens served in global conflicts, but began questioning why—what were they fighting for? Black soldiers and nurses returned home transformed, but Mississippi still held fast to Jim Crow. As the war in Europe and Asia wound down, the battle lines at home were drawn. 

From the Gallery

Explore artifacts, photos, and documents featured in the A Closed Society gallery.

Timeline: 1941–1959

Video Tour

Points of Light

The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi is full of ordinary men and women who refused to sit silently while their brothers and sisters were denied their basic freedoms. A number of these heroes are featured throughout the museum as Points of Light, shining exemplars of dignity, strength, and perseverance in the face of oppression.

Dr. T.R.M. Howard - Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-135350

Dr. T.R.M. Howard

A charismatic leader, Dr. T.R.M. Howard came to Mound Bayou in the 1940s to serve as chief surgeon at the Knights and Daughters of Tabor Hospital. He also owned a plantation and the Magnolia Mutual Insurance Company. In 1951, Howard founded the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL) in Cleveland. Hosting national figures like Thurgood Marshall and Mahalia Jackson, Howard drew thousands to rallies at his plantation. The RCNL called for voter registration and “first class citizenship for Negroes in Mississippi.” Howard spoke out against police brutality and started a boycott of gas stations that did not provide restrooms for Black people.

Dr. A.H. McCoy

Dr. A.H. McCoy

Physician and astute businessman A.H. McCoy owned a dental practice, two movie theaters and the Security Life Insurance Company of the South, and helped establish the Farish Street Business District in downtown Jackson, which became the hub of the Civil Rights Movement. McCoy worked diligently within the movement, serving as president of the Mississippi Chapter of the NAACP in the 1950s and providing financial backing for equal rights campaigns that helped to uplift African Americans disenfranchised by the Jim Crow South. In 1984, the federal building in downtown Jackson was named for McCoy, making it the first federal building in the nation to be named in honor of an African American.

Explore Mississippi

Many of the homes, colleges, and historic sites discussed in this gallery still exist today. Journey beyond the museum walls and explore the places where history happened.

Reverend George Lee Museum

Fannie Lou Hamer Civil Rights MuseumMuseum dedicated to Reverend George Lee and other civil rights heroes.

17150 US HWY 49
Belzoni, Mississippi

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Tallahatchie County Courthouse

Tallahatchie County Courthouse in SumnerLocation of the 1955 Emmett Till murder trial

401 West Court Street
Sumner, Mississippi 

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