BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - A new art exhibit revealed Friday recognizes the significance of the Biloxi beach wade-ins. During the civil rights era, African Americans were not allowed on the beach in Harrison County.
Between 1959 and 1963, three protests were held to end segregation on the beach. A ceremony on the beach in Biloxi unveiled an exhibit titled Witness the Beach. It features a series of storytelling panels with photographs dedicated to the three Biloxi wade-ins.
Gilbert Mason led the protests to end the injustice.
“The wade-in was one of the first civil disobedience actions taken in the state of Mississippi. It’s important that we keep recognizing the young people and Dr. Mason for standing up to make sure the beach was available to everybody,” said Biloxi NAACP President James Crowell.
African Americans reached the point of saying enough is enough during the turbulent civil rights era. The rallying cry was segregation on the beach was not only wrong, but unconstitutional.
Clemon Jimerson participated in the protests.
“For us to live in Biloxi, and you had all this beach that was man-made, with taxpayer money and be denied the opportunity to come out here just wasn’t right,” Jimerson said.
Of the trio of wade-ins, the one held in 1960 became known as Bloody Sunday. White mobs attacked black beachgoers, and a riot ensued. Protesters were assaulted, many taken to the hospital.
Witness the Beach will be up for the next three weeks and then become a mobile exhibit traveling the state. It was created by the Design Studio as a way to memorialize history and courage.
“We want everyone who visits this part of Biloxi to come and take a look, have a seat and reflect on your place in the movement for justice and equality,” said the Design Studio’s Elizabeth Englebretson.
In 1967, the U.S. Department of Justice ordered the end of segregation on the beach in Harrison County.