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Hattiesburg in Forrest County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
 

Rev. W.D. Ridgeway

Civil Rights Leader

 
 
Rev. W.D. Ridgeway Marker Side A image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cajun Scrambler, June 24, 2021
1. Rev. W.D. Ridgeway Marker Side A
Inscription.  Rev. W.D. Ridgeway was one of the most courageous, steadfast and respected Civil Rights Leaders to emerge in Mississippi during the 1950s. He was constantly under the radar of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission and the local White Citizens Council of Hattiesburg because of his work with the NAACP as he worked closely with NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers. He was the only African American from Mississippi to travel to Washington, D.C., to testify about Voting Rights Violations of African Americans in Forrest County before the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights on February 28, 1957. The following are excerpts from his testimony:
When the President of the United States...and the Representatives are elected, I have no choice in the election, because I am not permitted to cast a ballot.
The glaring disgrace of Forrest County, Miss., is the uncontested fact that of the 12,958 Negroes in the county, less than 25 have been permitted to register and vote. Included in the remaining 12,933 Negroes are doctors, teachers, preachers, and laymen who are disenfranchised simply because they are Negroes. On
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October 16, 1956, I was flatly refused the right to register along with 17 other Negroes who were in the office of the registrar at the same time that I was. Again and again, I have gone to qualify myself so that I might be eligible, along with many other Americans, to cast a vote for Federal and State officials only to find myself and other Negroes turned down.


The testimonies of Rev. Ridgeway and other individuals are accredited with assisting in the passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act that was enacted on September 9, 1957, which created the Civil Rights Division in the U. S. Justice Department. Unfortunately. Rev. Ridgeway's family and home had to be protected before his return from Washington D.C. after testifying. Moreover, he and his family were subjected to many acts of racism orchestrated by the local White Citizens Council upon his return.

Economic pressure was also placed on some of the members of True Light Baptist Church where Rev. Ridgeway served as Pastor by the local White Citizens Council in an attempt to stop his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Despite the opposition mounted against him, Rev. Ridgeway continued his fight for freedom and he was one of the Keynote Speakers, along with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Southern Christian Ministers' Conference held in Jackson, Mississippi,
Rev. W.D. Ridgeway Marker, Side B image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cajun Scrambler, June 24, 2021
2. Rev. W.D. Ridgeway Marker, Side B
on September 22-24, 1959. Rev. Ridgeway bravely delivered an eloquent and provoking speech during the Conference on "The Part the Minister Should Play in the Crusade for Integration." The topic of "Integration of Public Schools” was very controversial in Mississippi before and after the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. Board of Education (May 17, 1954). Rev. Ridgeway played a pivotal role in the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project in Hattiesburg and upon receiving a personal invitation from President Lyndon B. Johnson, he attended the First White House Conference on Civil Rights held June 1-2, 1966.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Civil Rights. A significant historical date for this entry is February 28, 1957.
 
Location. 31° 20.028′ N, 89° 17.394′ W. Marker is in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in Forrest County. Marker is on Mobile Street near East 5th Street, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Hattiesburg MS 39401, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A Bench By The Road (here, next to this marker); J.B. Woods Park (a few steps from this marker); Taking our Rightful Place in History / We Honor These 15 Brave Men Who Filed The Voting Rights Case (within shouting distance of this marker); Roots of Rock and Roll (about 400 feet away,
Rev. W.D. Ridgeway Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cajun Scrambler, June 24, 2021
3. Rev. W.D. Ridgeway Marker
measured in a direct line); Eureka School (about 400 feet away); East 6th Street USO Club (approx. 0.2 miles away); St. Paul Methodist Church (approx. 0.3 miles away); Pittman Park (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Hattiesburg.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 12, 2022. It was originally submitted on July 5, 2021, by Cajun Scrambler of Assumption, Louisiana. This page has been viewed 224 times since then and 21 times this year. Last updated on February 10, 2022, by Glenda F. Funchess of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on July 5, 2021, by Cajun Scrambler of Assumption, Louisiana. • Mark Hilton was the editor who published this page.

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Apr. 22, 2024