Jackson is the capital and since 1944 the largest city of the state of Mississippi. The city is located on the Pearl River, which drains into the Gulf of Mexico and is part of the Jackson Prairie region of the state. Jackson is one of two county seats of Hinds County, with the city of Raymond being the other.
The city, the anchor for its metro area, is named after Andrew Jackson, who was honored for his role in the Battle of New Orleans and later was elected as US president. The current slogan for the city is "Jackson, Mississippi: City with Soul." It has had numerous musicians prominent in blues, gospel and jazz, and was known for decades for its illegal nightclubs on the Gold Coast; one site has been designated for the Mississippi Blues Trail.
It had a decline in population from 184,256 at the 2000 census to 173,514 at the 2010 census. The 2010 census ascribed a population of 539,057 to the five-county Jackson metropolitan area. The city is ranked third as the best "mud" city among the United States' 100 largest metro areas, according to Forbes magazine. The study measured overall affordability in living costs, housing rates, and more.
The region which is now the city of Jackson was historically part of the large territory occupied by the Choctaw Nation, the historic culture of the Muskogean-speaking indigenous peoples who had inhabited the area for thousands of years before European encounter. The area now called Jackson was obtained by the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Doak's Stand in 1820, by which the Choctaw ceded some of their land. After the treaty was ratified, European-American settlers began to move into the area, so many that they encroached on remaining Choctaw land.
Under pressure from the U.S. government, the Choctaw Native Americans agreed to removal after 1830 from all their lands east of the Mississippi River under the terms of several treaties. Although most of the Choctaw moved to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma, along with the other of the Five Civilized Tribes, a significant number chose to stay in their homeland, citing Article XIV of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. They gave up their tribal membership and became state and United States citizens at the time. Today, most Choctaw in Mississippi have reorganized and are part of the federally recognized Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. They live in several majority-Indian communities located throughout the state. The largest community is located in Choctaw northeast of Jackson.
Founding and antebellum period (to 1860)
The area that is now Jackson was initially referred to as Parkerville. Located on the historic Natchez Trace trade route, created by Native Americans and used by European-American settlers, it was first settled by Louis LeFleur, a French Canadian trader. The village became known as LeFleur's Bluff. During the late 18th century and early 19th century, this site had a trading post. It was connected to markets in Tennessee. A treaty with the Choctaw, the Treaty of Doak's Stand in 1820, formally opened the area for non-Native American settlers.
LeFleur's Bluff was developed because it was chosen as the site for the new state's capital. The Mississippi General Assembly decided in 1821 that the new state needed a centrally located capital (they were then located at the historic city of Natchez). They commissioned Thomas Hinds, James Patton, and William Lattimore to look for a suitable site. The absolute center of the state was a swamp, so the group had to widen their search.
After surveying areas north and east of Jackson, they proceeded southwest along the Pearl River until they reached LeFleur's Bluff in Hinds County. Their report to the General Assembly stated that this location had beautiful and healthful surroundings, good water, abundant timber, navigable waters, and proximity to the trading route Natchez Trace. The Assembly passed an act on November 28, 1821, authorizing the site as the permanent seat of the government of the state of Mississippi. One Whig politician lamented the new capital as a "serious violation of principle" because it was not at the absolute center of the state.
Jackson was originally planned, in April 1822, by Peter Aaron Van Dorn in a "checkerboard" pattern advocated by Thomas Jefferson. City blocks alternated with parks and other open spaces. Over time, many of the park squares have been developed rather than maintained as green space.
The state legislature first met in Jackson on December 23, 1822. In 1839, the Mississippi General Assembly passed the first state law in the United States that permitted married women to own and administer their own property.
Jackson was first connected by railroad to other cities in 1840. An 1844 map shows Jackson linked by an east-west rail line running between Vicksburg, Raymond, and Brandon. Unlike Vicksburg, Greenville, and Natchez, Jackson is not located on the Mississippi River, and did not develop like those cities from that river commerce. Construction of railroad lines to the city sparked its growth in the decades after the American Civil War.
American Civil War and late nineteenth century (1861–1900)
Despite its small population, during the Civil War, Jackson became a strategic center of manufacturing for the Confederate States of America. In 1863, during the campaign which ended in the capture of Vicksburg, Union forces captured Jackson during two battles—once before the fall of Vicksburg and once after the fall of Vicksburg.
On May 13, 1863, Union forces won the first Battle of Jackson, forcing Confederate forces to flee northward towards Canton. On May 15, Union troops under the command of William Tecumseh Sherman burned and looted key facilities in Jackson, a strategic manufacturing and railroad center for the Confederacy. After driving the Confederate forces out of Jackson, Union forces turned west and engaged the Vicksburg defenders at the Battle of Champion Hill in nearby Edwards. The Union forces began their siege of Vicksburg soon after their victory at Champion Hill. Confederate forces began to reassemble in Jackson in preparation for an attempt to break through the Union lines surrounding Vicksburg and end the siege. The Confederate forces in Jackson built defensive fortifications encircling the city while preparing to march west to Vicksburg.
Confederate forces marched out of Jackson in early July 1863 to break the siege of Vicksburg. But, unknown to them, Vicksburg had already surrendered on July 4, 1863. General Ulysses S. Grant dispatched General Sherman to meet the Confederate forces heading west from Jackson. Upon learning that Vicksburg had already surrendered, the Confederates retreated into Jackson. Union forces began the Siege of Jackson, which lasted for approximately one week. Union forces encircled the city and began an artillery bombardment. One of the Union artillery emplacements has been preserved on the grounds of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Another Federal position is preserved on the campus of Millsaps College. John C. Breckenridge, former United States Vice President, served as one of the Confederate generals defending Jackson. On July 16, 1863, Confederate forces slipped out of Jackson during the night and retreated across the Pearl River.
Union forces completely burned the city after its capture this second time. The city was called "Chimneyville" because only the chimneys of houses were left standing. The northern line of Confederate defenses in Jackson during the siege was located along a road near downtown Jackson, now known as Fortification Street.
During Reconstruction, Mississippi had considerable insurgent action, as whites struggled to maintain supremacy. In 1875 the Red Shirts were formed, one of a second wave of insurgent paramilitary organizations that essentially operated as "the military arm of the Democratic Party" to take back political power from the Republicans and to drive blacks from the polls. Democrats regained control of the state legislature in 1876. The constitutional convention of 1890, which produced Mississippi's Constitution of 1890, was also held at the capitol.
This was the first of new constitutions or amendments ratified in southern states through 1908 that effectively disfranchised most African Americans and many poor whites, through provisions making voter registration more difficult: such as poll taxes, residency requirements, and literacy tests. These provisions survived a Supreme Court challenge in 1898. As 20th-century Supreme Court decisions later ruled such provisions were unconstitutional, Mississippi and other southern states rapidly devised new methods to continue disfranchisement of most blacks, who comprised a majority in the state until the 1930s.
The economic recovery from the Civil War was slow through the start of the 20th century, but there were some developments in transportation. In 1871, the city introduced mule-drawn streetcars which ran on State Street, which were replaced by electric ones in 1899.
The so-called New Capitol replaced the older structure upon its completion in 1903. Today the Old Capitol is operated as a historical museum.
Early twentieth century (1901–1960)
Author Eudora Welty was born in Jackson in 1909, lived most of her life in the Belhaven section of the city, and died there in 2001. Her memoir of development as a writer, One Writer's Beginnings (1984), presented a picture of the city in the early twentieth century. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for her novel, The Optimist's Daughter, and is best known for her novels and short stories. The main Jackson Public Library was named in her honor, and her home has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Jackson had significant growth in the early twentieth century, which produced dramatic changes in the city's skyline. Jackson's new Union Station downtown reflected the city's service by multiple rail lines, including the Illinois Central. Across the street, the new, luxurious King Edward Hotel opened its doors in 1923, having been built according to a design by New Orleans architect William T. Nolan. It became a center for prestigious events held by Jackson society and Mississippi politics. Nearby, the 18-story Standard Life Building, designed in 1929 by Claude Lindsley, was the largest reinforced concrete structure in the world upon its completion.
Jackson's economic growth was further stimulated in the 1930s by the discovery of natural gas fields nearby. Speculators began searching for oil and natural gas in Jackson beginning in 1920. The initial drilling attempts of the early twenties came up empty. This failure did not stop Ella Render from obtaining a lease from the state’s insane asylum to begin a well on its grounds in 1924. Render found natural gas, but eventually lost the rights when courts determined that the asylum did not have the right to lease the state’s property. Businessmen jumped on the opportunity and dug wells in the Jackson area. The continued success of these ventures attracted further investment and by 1930, there were fourteen derricks in the Jackson skyline.
Mississippi Governor Theodore Bilbo stated,
“it is no idle dream to prophecy that the state’s share [of the oil and natural gas profits] properly safe-guarded would soon pay the state’s entire bonded indebtedness and even be great enough to defray all the state’s expenses and make our state tax free so long as obligations are concerned.”This enthusiasm was subdued when the first wells failed to produce oil of a sufficiently high gravity for commercial success. The barrels of oil had considerable amounts of salt water, which lessened the quality. The governor’s prediction is wrong in hindsight, but the oil and natural gas industry did provide an economic boost for the city and state. The effects of the Great Depression were mitigated by the industry’s success. At its height in 1934, there were 113 producing wells in the state. The overwhelming majority were closed by 1955.
Jackson's Gold Coast
During Mississippi's extended Prohibition period, from the 1920s until the 1960s, illegal drinking and gambling casinos flourished on the east side of the Pearl River, in Flowood along the original U.S. Route 80 just across from the city of Jackson, Mississippi. Those illegal casinos, bootleg liquor stores and nightclubs made up the Gold Coast, a strip of mostly black-market businesses that operated for decades along Flowood Road. Although outside the law, the Gold Coast was a thriving center of nightlife and music, with many local blues musicians appearing regularly in the clubs.
The Gold Coast declined and businesses disappeared after Mississippi's prohibition laws were repealed in 1966, allowing Hinds County, including Jackson, to go "wet". In addition, integration drew off business from establishments that earlier had catered to African Americans, such as the Summers Hotel. When it opened in 1943 on Street, it was one of two hotels in the city that served black clients. For years its Subway Lounge was a prime performance spot for black musicians playing jazz and blues.
In another major change, in 1990 the state approved gaming on riverboats. Numerous casinos have been developed on riverboats, mostly in Mississippi River towns such as Tunica Resorts, Greenville, Vicksburg, and Biloxi on the Gulf Coast. Before the damage and losses due to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the state ranked second nationally in gambling revenues.
World War II and later development
During World War II, Hawkins Field in northwest Jackson was developed as a major airbase. Among other facilities and units, the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School was established there, after Nazi Germany occupied the Netherlands. From 1941, the base trained all Dutch military aircrews.
In 1949, the poet Margaret Walker began teaching at Jackson State University, a historically black college. She taught there until 1979, and founded the university's Center for African-American Studies. Her poetry collection won a Yale Younger Poets Prize. Her second novel, Jubilee (1966), is considered a major work of African-American literature. She has influenced many younger writers.
Civil Rights Movement in Jackson
The Civil Rights Movement had been active for decades, particularly mounting legal challenges to Mississippi's constitution and laws that disfranchised blacks. Beginning in 1960, Jackson as the state capital became the site for dramatic non-violent protests in a new phase of activism that brought in a wide variety of participants in the performance of mass demonstrations. In 1960, the Census Bureau reported Jackson's population as 64.3% white and 35.7% black.
At the time, public facilities were segregated and Jim Crow was in effect. Efforts to desegregate Jackson facilities began when nine Tougaloo College students tried to read books in the "white only" public library and were arrested. Founded as a historically black college (HBCU) by the American Missionary Association after the Civil War, Tougaloo College helped organize both black and white students of the region to work together for civil rights. It created partnerships with the neighboring mostly white Millsaps College to work with student activists. It has been recognized as a site on the "Civil Rights Trail" by the National Park Service.
The mass demonstrations of the 1960s were initiated with the arrival of more than 300 Freedom Riders on May 24, 1961. They were arrested in Jackson for disturbing the peace after they disembarked from their interstate buses. The interracial teams rode the buses from Washington, DC and sat together to demonstrate against segregation on public transportation, as the Constitution provides for unrestricted public transportation. Although the Freedom Riders had intended New Orleans, Louisiana as their final destination, Jackson was the farthest that any managed to travel. New participants kept joining the movement, as they intended to fill the jails in Jackson with their protest. The riders had encountered extreme violence along the way, including a bus burning and physical assaults. They attracted national media attention to the struggle for constitutional rights.
After the Freedom Rides, students and activists of the Freedom Movement launched a series of merchant boycotts, sit-ins and protest marches, from 1961 to 1963. Businesses discriminated against black customers. For instance, at the time, department stores did not hire black salesclerks or allow black customers to use their fitting rooms to try on clothes, or lunch counters for meals while in the store, but they wanted them to shop in their stores.
In Jackson, shortly after midnight on June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers, civil rights activist and leader of the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP, was murdered by Byron De La Beckwith, a white supremacist. Thousands marched in his funeral procession to protest the killing. A portion of U.S. Highway 49, all of Delta Drive, a library, the central post office for the city, and Jackson-Evers International Airport were named in honor of Medgar Evers. In 1994, prosecutors Ed Peters and Bobby DeLaughter finally obtained a murder conviction of De La Beckwith.
During 1963 and 1964, civil rights organizers gathered local residents for voter education and voter registration. Blacks had been essentially disfranchised since 1890. In a pilot project, activists rapidly registered 80,000 voters across the state, demonstrating the desire of African Americans to vote. In 1964 they created the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party as an alternative to the all-white state Democratic Party, and sent an alternate slate of candidates to the national party convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey that year.
Segregation and the disfranchisement of African Americans gradually ended after the Civil Rights Movement gained passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. In June 1966, Jackson was the terminus of the James Meredith March, organized by James Meredith, the first African American to enroll at the University of Mississippi. The march, which began in Memphis, Tennessee, was an attempt to garner support for full implementation of civil rights in practice, following the legislation. It was accompanied by a new drive to register African Americans to vote in Mississippi. In this latter goal, it succeeded in registering between 2,500 and 3,000 black Mississippians to vote. The march ended on June 26 after Meredith, who had been wounded by a sniper's bullet earlier on the march, addressed a large rally of some 15,000 people in Jackson.
In September 1967 a Ku Klux Klan chapter bombed the synagogue of the Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson, and in November bombed the house of its rabbi, Dr. Perry Nussbaum. He and his congregation had supported civil rights.
Gradually the old barriers came down. Since that period, both whites and African Americans in the state have had a consistently high rate of voter registration and turnout. Following the Great Migration, since the 1930s the state has been majority white in total population. African Americans are a majority now in Jackson, and in several cities and counties of the Mississippi Delta, which are included in the 2nd congressional district, established in the late 19th century. The other three congressional districts are majority white.
Mid-1960s to present
The first successful cadaveric lung transplant was performed at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson in June 1963 by Dr. James Hardy. Hardy transplanted the cadaveric lung into a patient suffering from lung cancer. The patient survived for eighteen days before dying of kidney failure.
Since 1968, Jackson has been the home of Malaco Records, one of the leading record companies for gospel, blues and soul music in the United States. In January 1973, Paul Simon recorded the songs "Learn How To Fall" and "Take Me To the Mardi Gras", found on the album There Goes Rhymin' Simon, in Jackson at the Malaco Recording Studios. Many well-known Southern artists recorded on the album including the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins, Barry Beckett); Carson Whitsett, the Onward Brass Band from New Orleans, and others. The label has recorded many leading soul and blues artists, including Bobby Bland, ZZ Hill, Latimore, Shirley Brown, Denise LaSalle and Tyrone Davis.
On May 15, 1970 police killed two students and wounded 12 at Jackson State University (then called Jackson State College) after a protest of the Vietnam War included students' overturning and burning some cars. These killings occurred eleven days after the National Guard killed four students in an anti-war protest at Kent State University in Ohio, and were part of national social unrest. Newsweek cited the Jackson State killings in its issue of May 18 when it suggested that U.S. President Richard Nixon faced a new home front.
In 1997, Harvey Johnson, Jr. was elected as Jackson's first African-American mayor. During his term, he proposed the development of a convention center to attract more business to the city. In 2004, during his second term, 66 percent of the voters passed a referendum for a tax to build the Convention Center.
Mayor Johnson was replaced by Frank Melton on July 4, 2005. Melton subsequently generated controversy through his unconventional behavior, which included acting as a law enforcement officer. A dramatic spike in crime also ensued, despite Melton's efforts to reduce crime. The lack of jobs contributed to crime.
2007 saw a historic first for Mississippi as Hinds County sheriff Malcolm McMillin was appointed as the new police chief in Jackson. McMillin was both the county sheriff and city police chief until 2009, when he stepped down due to the disagreements with the mayor. Mayor Frank Melton died in May 2009 and City Councilman Leslie McLemore served as acting mayor of Jackson until July 2009, when former Mayor Harvey Johnson assumed the Mayor position.
On June 26, 2011, 49-year-old James Craig Anderson was killed in Jackson after being beaten, robbed and run over by a group of white teenagers. The district attorney described it as a "crime of hate", and the FBI investigated it as a civil rights violation.
On March 18, 2013, a severe hailstorm hit the Jackson metro area. The hail caused major damage to roofs, vehicles, and siding damage to many homes. Hail ranged in size from golfball to softball. There were over 40,000 hailstorm claims of homeowner and automobile damage.
On July 1, 2013, Chokwe Lumumba was sworn into office as mayor of the city. After only eight months in office, Lumumba passed away on February 25, 2014. Lumumba was a controversial figure due to his prior membership in the Republic of New Africa as well as being a co-founder of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America. Lumumba's son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, ran for the mayoral seat following his father's death, but lost to Councillor Tony Yarber on April 22, 2014.
In 2013, Jackson was named as one of the top 10 friendliest cities in the United States by CN Traveler. The capital city was tied with Natchez as Number 7. The city was noticed for friendly people, great food, and green and pretty public places.