Friday, October 3, 2008
Greenwood is the county seat of Leflore County, Mississippi, United States, located at the eastern edge of the Mississippi Delta approximately 96 miles north of Jackson, Mississippi and 130 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee. The population was 18,425 at the 2000 census. It is the principal city within the Greenwood Micropolitan Statistical Area. The Tallahatchie River and the Yalobusha River meet at Greenwood to form the Yazoo River.
The flood plain of the Mississippi River has long been an area rich in vegetation and wildlife, feeding off the Mississippi and its numerous tributaries. Long before Europeans migrated to America, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian nations settled in the Delta's marsh and swampland. In 1830 the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed by Choctaw Chief Greenwood Leflore, opening the swampland to European settlers.
The first settlement on the banks of the Yazoo River was a trading post founded by John Williams in 1830 and known as Williams Landing. The settlement quickly blossomed, and in 1844 was incorporated as "Greenwood," named after Chief Greenwood Leflore. Growing into a strong cotton market, the key to the city's success was based on its strategic location in the heart of the Delta; on the easternmost point of the alluvial plain and astride the Tallahatchie River and the Yazoo River. The city served as a shipping point to New Orleans, Louisiana, Vicksburg, Mississippi, Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis, Missouri. Greenwood continued to prosper until the latter part of the American Civil War.
During that war, Greenwood played an important, if little-known, role in the famous Siege of Vicksburg. In early 1863, it was clear that the Union intended to attack the strategic port of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River. After failed attempts at a frontal assault of the city, General Ulysses S. Grant hatched a new plan to attack from the rear by way of the Tallahatchie and Yazoo Rivers. A hastily constructed Confederate fort was placed between the two rivers at Fort Pemberton. Here the Confederates met the oncoming Union flotilla with fierce resistance and the sinking of the paddle wheeler "Star of the West" in the channel of the Tallahatchie River, successfully stopping their advance. As a result, Grant abandoned the Yazoo Expedition and retreated north to the Mississippi River to assault Vicksburg by another route.
The end of the Civil War in the mid-1860's and the following year of Reconstruction severely diminished the cotton industry and crippled the city's previously thriving economy. Greenwood saw very little growth during these years of hardship.
The arrival of railroads in the 1880's saved the city – with two lines running to downtown Greenwood, close to the Yazoo River. Once again, Greenwood emerged as a prime shipping point for cotton. Downtown's Front Street bordering the Yazoo bustled with cotton factors and other related businesses, earning that section the name Cotton Row. The city continued to prosper in this way well into the 1940's.
From 1962 through 1964 Greenwood was a center of protests and voter registration strugges during the Civil Rights Movement. SNCC, COFO, and the MFDP were all active in Greenwood. During this period hundreds were arrested on nonviolent protests, civil rights activists were subjected to repeated violence, blacks were denied the right to vote, and economic retaliation was used against African-Americans who attempted to register to vote.
In the twenty-first century Greenwood is experiencing a cultural renaissance. Its historic downtown boasts dozens of completed renovations with several others in progress. There are upscale shops, unique dining experiences, a boutique hotel, galleries and museums. All the while, Greenwood has retained its small-town beauty, Delta personality and deep-South hospitality. (from the Greenwood Convention and Visitor's Bureau)
The establishment of Greenwood as a tourist destination came with the revitalization of Howard Street in historic Downtown Greenwood.
Notable businesses that make their home on Howard Street include The Alluvian Hotel, The Alluvian Spa, The Viking Cooking School, The Mississippi Gift Company, Blue Parrot Restaurant and Veronica's Bakery, Olde World Antiques, Russell's Antiques, Turnrow Books, Matties, Sweet Pea, Fincher's Gifts, Traditions, Ashley's Rug World, The Cat Walk and several bank headquarters.
The African-American contribution to the Greenwood region is invaluable. In fact, the Delta has exported as much music as cotton, sprouted from the spirit of the people. That spirit rose from historic neighborhoods such as Browning Community in Greenwood, the oldest African-American community in Mississippi, and home to the important Browning Artesian Well. The spirit was fed by the town and country churches, including the areas oldest African-American church, Wesley United Methodist in downtown Greenwood, organized in 1870. The spirit was shaped by centers of learning such as Mississippi Valley State University, which has borne generation of historic figures, from sports stars and Olympians to Civil Rights leader and present-day civic leaders.
Brooks Chapel M.B. Church,
WPA Day Nursery for Negro Children
Leflore County has produced extraordinary music stars, from the early bluesmen such as Mississippi John Hurt from nearby Teoc, Mississippi and Walter "Furry" Lewis to the talent of today including B.B. King, Hubert Sumlin and Denise LaSalle. Another famous blues musician, Robert Johnson, has three memorial gravestones in the Greenwood area. In the area of sports, Greenwood native Willye White followed the advice of her father and found her future far outside the cotton fields as a five-time Olympian and a medalist.
Not all great African-Americans left the Delta. Others stayed and forged freedom a day at a time, through their own efforts. Noted Civil Rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King held a rally in the summer of 1966, along with Stokely Carmichael of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Floyd McKissick of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Sites such as East Percy Street Christian Church and the home of Dewey Greene were Civil Rights-era meeting places.
The Mississippi Delta is rich in the accomplishments of African-Americans who struggled, transcended, created, inspired and motivated. (from the Greenwood Convention and Visitor's Bureau)
Mississippi Blues Trail markers
Radio station WGRM on Howard Street was the location of B.B. King's first live broadcast in 1940. On a Sunday night King performed live gospel music. In dedication to this event, the Mississippi Blues Trail has placed its third historic marker in this town at the site of the former radio station. Another Mississippi Blues trail marker is placed near the grave of blues singer Robert Johnson. There is also a Blues Trail marker at the Elks Lodge.
The small, yet rapidly growing, city of Greenwood, MS hosts many annual events. The numerous festivals, productions, parades, celebrations, and concerts all bring dazzling, spectacular, family fun that draws people from all over the world. From large religious organization events to the classy formal school homecoming coronations and parades, Greenwood prides itself on making these events bigger and better each year, often drawing international accolades. The list is extensive, but a few of the notable events are:
First Presbyterian Church Singing Christmas Tree - December
Roy Martin Delta Band Festival - December
Holiday Open House - November
Upstairs Downtown Loft Tour - November
Art Alfresco - October
Stars and Stripes in the Park - July
River to the Rails Arts Festival - April
Valerie Brisco-Hooks, Olympian
Fred Carl, Jr., founder and CEO of Viking Range Corp.
William V. Chambers, personality psychologist,
Byron De La Beckwith, white supremacist, assassinated Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers,
Betty Everett, R&B vocalist and pianist,
Alphonso Ford, professional basketball player,
Webb Franklin, United States Congressman,
Morgan Freeman, Oscar-winning actor,
Jim Gallagher, Jr., professional golfer,
Bobbie Gentry, vocalist,
Gerald Glass, professional basketball player,
Guitar Slim, blues musician,
Kent Hull, professional football player,
Tom Hunley, real-life "Hambone" who was the origin of J.P. Alley's syndicated cartoon feature, Hambone's Meditations,
Mississippi John Hurt, songster and blues musician,
Robert Johnson (musician), blues musician (presumed buried in Greenwood),
Stephen LaVere, Grammy Award-winning record producer and music historian,
Walter "Furry" Lewis, songster and blues musician,
Bernie Machen, President of University of Florida,
Matt Miller, baseball pitcher,
Carrie Nye, actress,
Avanti Sharma, founder and CEO of The Anokhi Foundation,
Mary Ann Pearce, first wife of novelist Mickey Spillane (who lived in Greenwood in 1945),
John A. Pittman, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient,
Fenton Robinson, blues singer and guitarist,
Hubert Sumlin, blues guitarist,
Donna Tartt, novelist of The Little Friend (set in Mississippi), was born in Greenwood,
Willye White, Olympian,
Danton J. Thompson, Actor, Producer, Writer, Musician,
William Madison Whittington, United States Congressman (1925-1951),
Cleo Lemon, Miami Dolphins Quarterback,
Greenwood is one of the few places in the world where you can stand between two rivers flowing in the opposite direction: the Yazoo River and the Tallahatchie River.
Legend has it that the Leflore County Courthouse in Greenwood stands on Choctaw land once used for rituals and sacraments.
The City of Greenwood is named after Choctaw Indian Chief Greenwood Leflore, who negotiated the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek with the U.S. Government.
Cottonlandia Museum in Greenwood houses furniture from Chief Greenwood Leflore's mansion Malmaison, which was destroyed by fire in 1942.
Greenwood known as the Cotton Capital of the World and boasts the second largest cotton exchange in the nation located on Cotton Row.
The Tallahatchie River in Greenwood contains relics of the Union side-wheel steamship, Star of the West, sunk to prevent passage of the Union flotilla to Vicksburg.
Walter "Furry" Lewis was born in Greenwood in March 1899 and became the first bluesman to record the bottleneck method of playing guitar.
Keesler Bridge in Greenwood is a swing bridge of the Howe Truss design and a dedicated Mississippi landmark.
Helen Keller gave a speech about happiness in Greenwood on March 29, 1916 Unfortunately she was unable to hear the applause.
John Phillip Sousa conducted a concert in Greenwood in 1930.
Robert Johnson died and was buried just north of Greenwood in August 1938 and now has three memorial gravestones set across the county in his memory.
B.B. King, King of the Blues, was born near Itta Bena at Berclair in Leflore County in 1925 and initiated his career in the mid-1940's on a broadcast over Greenwood's WGRM [then located at 222 Howard Street - upstairs (now home of the Greenwood Blues Heritage Museum & Gallery)] as guitarist for the St. John's Gospel Singers quartet from nearby Indianola.
In 1944, Time covered the Greenwood Mule Race, attended by over 5,000 people.
Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman graduated from high school in Greenwood in 1955.
Young Emmett Till's abduction from the home of relatives at Money, Mississippi (just north of Greenwood) and subsequent murder in August 1955 sparked the civil rights movement.
Little Richard sang a song titled, Greenwood, Mississippi and William Eggleston captured his photograph Greenwood, Mississippi, 1973 there.
The movies Home from the Hill (1960), The Streets of Greenwood (1962), Ode to Billie Joe, The Reivers, Mississippi Masala, and The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag were filmed on location in Greenwood.
Greenwood sites used in the filming of John Grisham's "The Chamber" include Webster's Restaurant where you can sit and eat steak and seafood on the same barstool as Chris O'Donnell.
The largest Bible-binding plant in the nation is Norris Bookbinding located in Greenwood.
The largest employers in Leflore County are:
Greenwood Leflore Hospital,
Greenwood Public Schools,
Mississippi Valley State University,
America's Catch Catfish,
Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp.,
J.J. Ferguson Sand and Gravel,
Lawrence Printing Co., Inc.,
Museums and History:
Greenwood Blues Heritage Museum and Gallery,
Fort Pemberton and Star of the West,
The Mississippi Gift Company,
Three Deuces Building - 222 Howard Street,
Greenwood Blues Heritage Museum & Gallery,
Veronica's Custom Bakery,
Viking Range Corporate Headquarters,
The Viking Cooking School,
The Viking Culinary Arts Center,
The Alluvian Hotel,
The Alluvian Spa,
Staplcotn Corporate Headquarters,
TurnRow Book Co.