Trail Marker

Intersection of 25th Avenue & 5th Street, Meridian, MS

The history of the Civil Rights movement in Meridian is a tumultuous one. It is difficult to say exactly when it began and equally difficult to say when or if it has ended. However, we can say with certainty that Meridian’s downtown is closely linked with many of the people and events that helped to shape the movement.

The Meridian Race Riot of 1871 began at Con Sheehan Hall, which was located at the intersection of 5th Street and 25th Avenue. It served as the courthouse and the center of county government in the 1870s. The riot was proof that the Reconstruction era following the Civil War had come to an end in Meridian. The struggle between the races, however, would continue.

By the 1960s, this area had evolved into the African-American Business District. It was the logical choice for the location of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) office. COFO was a coalition of several Civil Rights groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). COFO was instrumental in registering voters, founding Freedom Schools, and helping form the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. In 1964, Michael Schwerner and his wife, Rita, came to Meridian to run the COFO office, which was located in the Fielder and Brooks Drug Store building. Schwerner’s work at COFO caught the attention of the Ku Klux Klan and would lead to one of the most horrific events in Civil Rights history.

Directions to next marker (Sit-ins, Pickets & Boycotts): Take 5th Street northeast just past intersection of 5th Street and 23rd Avenue; marker located immediately on right.

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