Gulfport Wade-In historical marker finally replaced
GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - It was a big moment for civil rights history on the Mississippi Coast. The Gulfport Civil Rights Wade-In historical marker is back again. But this time, hopefully in a better place.
“It reaffirms the battles that they fought and they fought it not just for themselves or their families,” said Felicia Dunn-Burkes, daughter of civil rights leader Dr. Felix Dunn. “They fought for all people.”
The marker was originally placed in 2011 across from Island View Casino. But just a few years after that, it was vandalized.
“We thought it was important enough,” said organizer Dr. John Kelly. “In fact, we knew it was important enough that we had to do this again.”
The marker is now on the boardwalk just east of Jones Park.
“We’re hopeful no one will attempt to vandalize here, but if they do, I feel certain that my organization or some organization will reestablish it.”
The sign honors the two demonstrations in April 1960 in which Dr. Felix Dunn and his family defied the laws that denied African Americans use of the beach.
“My dad was a man of very few words - those that knew him,” Dunn-Burkes said. “He would defer to others to speak and take the spotlight. But he would be very, very proud of what he has seen transpire in Harrison County and the state of Mississippi and America.”
The marker once again got the blessing of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, calling the demonstrations a “national story” one that “needs to be taught and needs to be remembered.”
That’s something Dunn-Burkes, wants to make sure happens.
“There are people out here who don’t want to see this up, labeling it as critical race theory,” she said. “It’s our history. It’s not critical race theory. We don’t want anyone to feel bad about what happened. But we want the truth to be told.”
The fraternity Sigma Pi Phi is the sponsoring organization establishing the Gulfport Wade-In marker as well as the Biloxi wade-in marker, which has not yet been replaced since being destroyed by Hurricane Zeta.
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