'City Within a City': The recent history of blacks living in Biloxi

'City Within a City': The recent history of blacks living in Biloxi
A replica house now stands at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art, holding an exhibit honoring Pleasant Reed, the man who built the original structure in the 1880s. (Source: WLOX)
A replica house now stands at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art, holding an exhibit honoring Pleasant Reed, the man who built the original structure in the 1880s. (Source: WLOX)

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - In honor of Black History Month, a new exhibit has opened on the coast. It dives into the recent history of the African American community in Biloxi.

The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art now features a replica house built on the north side of the property that holds an exhibit honoring the man who built the original structure in the 1880s, Pleasant Reed.

There's now an addition to the history represented in the house.

"We wanted to expand on that and look at the African American community in Biloxi more as a whole," said museum curator Rhea Miner.

The museum worked together with the surrounding community to create the "City Within a City" exhibit. It focuses on the area of the city called the Back of Town in the 1960s, where a concentrated African American population was centralized.

These citizens would go out into the city to work. "But they would come back and this is where they lived and worshipped and went to school and this is where they lived their lives," said Miner.

The displays feature the history of Biloxi from after World War II through desegregation. It includes stories from people who lived through the segregated times.

"I'll give you a good example," said Smiley Lee Albert, one of the interviews featured as part of the exhibit. "A white airman and a black airman came to the Greyhound bus station and they could not get the same taxi. It was a no-no. See, segregation was pretty rough around here."

According to Miner, it's an exhibit that serves as a reminder of a time gone by and an important chapter in Biloxi's story.

"This is where so many of the first things that happened in Biloxi happened. This is where the first chapter of the Biloxi NAACP happened. This is where the wade-ins that helped desegregate the beaches happened," said Miner.

The "City Within a City" exhibit is open during museum hours and does require museum admission to enter.

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