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On January 30, 2019, G. Mark LaFrancis, Robert Morgan, and Darrell White presented “The Parchman Ordeal: 1965 Natchez Civil Rights Injustice” as part of the History Is Lunch series.
In October 1965, nearly eight hundred young people attempted to march from their churches in Natchez to protest segregation, discrimination and mistreatment by white leaders and elements of the Ku Klux Klan. As they exited the churches, local authorities forced the would-be marchers onto buses and charged them with “parading without a permit,” a local ordinance later ruled unconstitutional.
“For about 150 of these young men and women, mostly African Americans in their teens and early twenties, this was only the beginning,” said LaFrancis. “They were taken to the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman where prison authorities subjected them to days of abuse, humiliation, and punishment under horrific conditions.”
Although it affected hundreds of people, the incident has been largely overlooked in civil rights histories. In an effort to change that, LaFrancis, Morgan, and White produced the documentary film The Parchman Ordeal: The Untold Story, which aired on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Now they have published a book containing interviews and photographs that they have uncovered since the film was finished.
“In some ways The Parchman Ordeal: 1965 Natchez Civil Rights Injustice is an expanded version of the film, one that has allowed the survivors to tell their stories in much more depth” said LaFrancis. “We were also able to include some 70 photographs of the people who this happened to as well as other events of that era.”
G. Mark LaFrancis of Natchez has been a writer and photographer for more than thirty years, mostly in journalism. He served for twenty-three years in the U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. LaFrancis is the founder and president of the Home with Heroes Foundation Inc., a private nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families.
Robert A. Morgan is a thirty-year U.S Air Force veteran who lives in Natchez. Morgan holds a master's degree in human resources management from Troy State University and an undergraduate degree in business management from St. Leo College. He works in partnership with New Dawn Video Productions and the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American History and Culture.
Darrell S. White is director of cultural tourism for the City of Natchez and director of the Natchez Museum of African-American History and Culture. An authority in African American history in the Natchez region, White has contributed to many publications, pamphlets, reenactments, and programs, and narrated The Parchman Ordeal: The Untold Story.
History Is Lunch is a weekly lecture series of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History that explores different aspects of the state's past. The hour-long programs are held in the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium of the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum building in Jackson. MDAH livestreams videos of the program at noon on Wednesdays on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/MDAHOfficial/.
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