The old Neshoba County Jail will be the subject of a forum hosted by the National Park Service at the Depot on May 9 from 5 to 7 p.m.
The old Neshoba County Jail will be the subject of a forum hosted by the National Park Service at the Depot on May 9 from 5 to 7 p.m.
The old Neshoba County Jail on E. Myrtle Street, because of its connection to the 1964 “Mississippi Burning” murders, is among several historically-significant civil rights sites in the state being considered for National Park Service designation.

A public meeting has been set for Wednesday, May 9 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Depot to gain public input.

The old jail was the third built on the property dating back 186 years. The first jail was a timber structure built in 1836 which burned in 1906. The current structure was built in 1955 and used until 1978.

In 2017, Congress passed a law directing the National Parks Service to conduct a special resource study of Mississippi’s nationally significant civil rights sites

The Mississippi examination includes:

Sites in the Mississippi Delta related to the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till on August 28, 1955, including Bryant’s store and Tallahatchie County Courthouse.

The old jail where civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were held on trumped-up speeding charges prior to being released, ambushed and later murdered by a mob of Ku Klux Klansmen that included law enforcement on June 21, 1964.

The trio had been in Neshoba County investigating the burning of the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church days earlier. The church was being used in a black voter registration drive.

The Revs. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph David Abernathy Sr. included the jail in a heralded voter registration march two years later.

The Biloxi office of Dr. Gilbert Mason Sr. who was a principal organizer of “wade-ins” beginning in 1959 to desegregate Biloxi’s public beaches. He also helped organize voter registration drives and led other civil rights initiatives for 33 years.

“Rigorous research and public opinion help our nation’s leaders determine whether a resource of national significance should be added to the National Park System,” said Ben West, southeast regional chief for planning and compliance with the National Park Service.

“The public’s voice is critical to this process. We welcome widespread participation as the National Park Service considers Mississippi-based civil rights sites and stories that helped shape our nation’s history.”

According to a NPS press release, the purpose of this special resource study is to gather information about the sites through historical research and public input and evaluate the sites’ potential for inclusion into the NPS system.

The findings – which are reported to Congress through the U.S. Secretary of the Interior – will center on the sites’ national significance, suitability, feasibility and need for direct NPS management. Special resource studies can take place over a two-year period, depending on the findings.

In addition to the open house in Philadelphia, the NPS will offer additional forums from May 7 through 10 in cities throughout the state.

Written comments are requested by June 1, 2018, and may be submitted during the Open House forums, online at parkplanning.nps.gov/MSCR_SRS or through postal mail to: Mississippi Civil Rights Sites Special Resource Study, Attn: Justin Henderson National Park Service- Denver Service Center, 12795 W. Alameda Parkway, Lakewood, CO 80228.