Jackson is the capital of the U.S. state of Mississippi. Located south of the Yazoo River, it is considered to be the southern border of the Mississippi Delta. Jackson is the most populous city in Mississippi, and is one of two county seats of Hinds County, with the town of Raymond being the other.
The current slogan for the city is "Jackson, Mississippi: City with Soul." Jackson is ranked 3rd out of America's 100 largest metro areas for the best "Bang For Your Buck" city according to Forbes magazine. The study measured overall affordability, housing rates, and more. The city is named after Andrew Jackson, who was a general at the time of the naming but later became president of the United States. The city is the anchor of the Metro area.
The region which is now the city of Jackson was historically part of the large territory occupied by the Choctaw Nation, the last of the indigenous peoples who had inhabited the area for thousands of years. 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 who are part of the federally recognized Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians live in several 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 and was settled by Louis LeFleur, a French Canadian trader, along the historic Natchez Trace trade route. The area then became known as LeFleur's Bluff. LeFleur's Bluff was founded based on the need for a centrally located capital for the state of Mississippi. In 1821, the Mississippi General Assembly, meeting in the then-capital of Natchez, had sent Thomas Hinds (for whom Hinds County is named), James Patton, and William Lattimore to look for a site. The absolute center of the state was a swamp, which forced the group to look close by for a new capital. 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. And so, a legislative Act passed by the Assembly on November 28, 1821, authorized the location to become 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 (a swamp occupied this spot).
During the late 18th century and early 19th century, the area was traversed by the Natchez Trace, on which a trading post stood before a treaty with the Choctaw, the Treaty of Doak's Stand in 1820, formally opened the area for non-native American settlers.
Jackson was originally planned, in April 1822, by Peter Van Dorn in a "checkerboard" pattern advocated by Thomas Jefferson, in which city blocks alternated with parks and other open spaces, giving the appearance of a checkerboard. This plan has not lasted to the present day.
The state legislature first met in Jackson on December 23, 1822.
In 1839, Jackson was the site of the passage of the first state law that permitted married women to own and administer their own property.
Jackson was first linked with other cities by rail 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 river commerce. Instead, railroads would later spark growth of the city 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 once again and engaged the Vicksburg defenders at the Battle of Champion Hill in nearby Edwards. The siege of Vicksburg began soon after the Union 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 there. The Confederate forces in Jackson built defensive fortifications encircling the city while preparing to march west to Vicksburg.
Confederate forces marched out of Jackson to break the siege of Vicksburg in early July 1863. However, 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 back into Jackson, thus beginning 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 still remains intact on the grounds of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Another Federal position is still intact on the campus of Millsaps College. One of the Confederate Generals defending Jackson was former United States Vice President John C. Breckenridge. 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, and the city earned the nickname "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.
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 African Americans and 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 began to find such provisions unconstitutional, Mississippi and other southern states rapidly devised new methods to continue disfranchisement of most blacks.
The economic recovery 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, and today the Old Capitol is a historical museum. A third important surviving antebellum structure is the Jackson City Hall, built in 1846 for less than $8,000. It is said that Sherman, a Mason, spared it because it housed a Masonic Lodge, though a more likely reason is that it housed an army hospital.
Early twentieth century (1901–1960)
Pulitzer Prize-winning 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 charming picture of the city in the early twentieth century. The main Jackson Public Library was named in her honor.
Jackson saw significant growth in the early twentieth century, as reflected in 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, long the center of Jackson society and Mississippi politics, opened its doors in 1923, having been built according to a design by New Orleans architect William T. Nolan. Nearby, the 18-story Standard Life Building, designed in 1929 by Claude Lindsley, became 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 initial failure did not stop Ella Render from obtaining a lease from the state’s insane asylum to begin a well 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. 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 well’s 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. However, all was not lost. The governor’s prediction is wrong in hindsight, but the oil and natural gas industry was a tremendous business for the city and state. The effects of the Great Depression were mollified by the industry’s success. At its height in 1934, there were one hundred and thirteen producing wells in the state. The overwhelming majority were closed by 1955.
During World War II, Hawkins Field in northwest Jackson became 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.
Civil Rights Movement in Jackson
Since 1960, Jackson has undergone a series of dramatic changes and growth. In 1960, the Census Bureau reported Jackson's population as 64.3% white and 35.7% black. As the state capital, it became a site for civil rights activism that was heightened by mass demonstrations during the 1960s. On May 24, 1961, during the African-American Civil Rights Movement, more than 300 Freedom Riders were arrested in Jackson for disturbing the peace after they disembarked from their bus. They were riding the bus to demonstrate against segregation on public transportation. Although the Freedom Riders had intended New Orleans, Louisiana as their final destination, Jackson was the farthest that any of them managed to travel.
Efforts to desegregate Jackson facilities began before the Freedom Rides when nine Tougaloo students were arrested for attempting to read books in the "white only" public library. Founded as a historically black college (HBCU) by the American Missionary Movement after the Civil War, Tougaloo College brought both black and white students together to work for civil rights. It also created partnerships with 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. 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.
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. In 1994, prosecutors Ed Peters and Bobby DeLaughter finally obtained a murder conviction of De La Beckwith. 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. During 1963 and 1964, organizers did voter education and voter registration. In a pilot project, they 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 party, and sent an alternate slate of candidates to the national party convention.
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 Acts of 1965. In June 1966, Jackson was also 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 implementation of civil rights legislation. It was accompanied by a new drive to register African-Americans to vote in Mississippi. In this latter aim, 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.
As a result of riots which followed the enrollment of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi, and residents taking down street signs to hinder the arrival of US Army forces whilst US Marshals held back rioters during the night at the University, the city of Jackson was placed under martial law by the Army for a one year period by order of Congress and President John F. Kennedy.
Gradually the old barriers came down. Since then, both whites and African Americans in the state have had a high rate of voter registration and turnout.
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 overturning and burning some cars. These killings occurred ten 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. became the city's first African-American mayor. During his term, he proposed the creation of a convention center, in hopes of attracting 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. As a result of this vote, many new development projects are underway in Downtown Jackson.
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. This spike in crime can be directly attributed to the wave of displaced New Orleans residents that moved to Jackson following Hurricane Katrina. 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 current 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 and robbed by a group of white teenagers in what has been described by the district attorney as a "crime of hate", which is under investigation by the FBI as a civil rights violation.