50th anniversary of Biloxi Wade-ins honored on beach - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

50th anniversary of Biloxi Wade-ins honored on beach


By Krystal Allan – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Against the backdrop of Biloxi's pristine beachfront, a song symbolic of the struggle to desegregate its beaches rang out. 'Wade-in the Water,' a song dating back to slavery, was sung in unison as people came out to celebrate a history-making moment.

A ceremonial marker was erected to pay tribute to those who dared to wade in the water on April 24, 1960. Fifty years on that day, several people were injured and arrested during a peaceful wade-in to desegregate South Mississippi's beaches.

Under a large tent by the seawall, people gathered for a brief ceremony. Biloxi councilman Bill Stallworth was among the local leaders who spoke.

"People didn't give up. People showed what they were made of. I'm here to say that I want to thank them. I want to thank those pioneers for fighting for us," says Stallworth.

Participants in the 1960 wade-in, like Bishop James Black also spoke. Following the ceremony, a marker across the street from the Biloxi Lighthouse off Highway 90 was unveiled.

"To see this marker finally being unveiled on the beach, it just fills my soul to be able to do that today," says Clemon Jimerson Sr., a wade-in participant.

Those who took part in the wade-in were joined by relatives of the deceased. Among those who were remembered was the leader of the movement, Dr. Gilbert R. Mason Sr.

"I think it speaks for a larger message that we had someone who had the courage to right a wrong," says Harrison County Judge Robin Midcalf-Brosig.

Those who came out say the history made back in 1960 isn't just a moment for this community to remember but one that must reach beyond Biloxi's shores as a testament to the larger struggle against civil injustices.

"I think it's important for the tourists to come here and see what we did and what the community has done today to recognize such an important event," says Midcalf-Brosig.

Along with the 1960 wade-in, there were two additional wade-ins one in May of 1959 and one in June of 1963. A 1968 federal court ruling opened the beaches to everyone.

In 2011, Gulfport plans to honor another leader in the movement, Dr. Felix Dunn with a memorial marker.

Click HERE to read more about the wade-in.

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