Greenwood in Leflore County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
Elks Hart Lodge No. 640
During the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, the Elks Hart Lodge No. 640 at this site was one of the most important venues for rhythm and blues in the Delta. Particularly during the segregation era, fraternal organizations such as the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World (the “black Elks”) were central to African American political, cultural, and social life, and played an important role in the Civil Rights movement.
The Elks Lodge The Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the World (IBPOEW) was formed in 1898 in Cincinnati, Ohio, by African Americans who were systematically excluded from joining the “white” Elks organization, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE). By 1899 twelve lodges of the IBPOEW, which became commonly known as the “black Elks,” were established in eight states, including Mississippi, and in 1902 a female auxiliary group, the Daughters of the IBPOEW was founded. African American railway workers, notably Pullman Porters, were instrumental in the formation of new chapters of the black Elks,
During the segregation era, when most hotels, auditoriums, and halls were off limits to African Americans, the lodges of the black Elks provided important spaces for social, political, and economic gatherings. Other fraternal organizations that played a similar role included African American chapters of the Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Knights of Columbus, and Shriners. The black Elks were organized around principles of “Charity, Justice, Brotherly and Sisterly Love and Fidelity,” and were deeply involved in fighting for and educating its members about economic and civil rights. In 1927 the IBPOEW formed a Civil Rights Commission whose work helped establish a legal framework for later protests during the civil rights era. Here in Greenwood, local civil rights activist and Elk member Cleveland Jordan arranged for the Elks hall to be the first meeting place for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) upon their arrival in Greenwood in 1962. Part of SNCC’s voter registration campaign involved the teaching of “freedom songs,” which usually drew from religious traditions but were sometimes based on rhythm & blues hits.
Erected 2008 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 34.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Civil Rights • Entertainment. In addition, it is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail series list.
Location. 33° 30.712′ N, 90° 10.454′ W. Marker is in Greenwood Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 106 East Scott Street, Greenwood MS 38930, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Greenwood Underpass (approx. ¼ mile away); Furry Lewis (approx. 0.4 miles away); "Black Power" Speech (approx. half a mile away); Baptist Town (approx. half a mile away); Greenwood's First Artesian Well (approx. 0.6 miles away); WGRM Radio Studio (approx. 0.7 miles away); Battery 'C' (approx. ¾ mile away); First United Methodist Church (approx. ¾ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Greenwood.
Also see . . . Mississippi Blues Trail site. (Submitted on September 16, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
Credits. This page was last revised on August 30, 2017. It was originally submitted on September 16, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 361 times since then and 20 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on September 16, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.