By Josh Troy
The State of Mississippi and Africa is filled with a rich history. Clarksdale resident Milton Gardner expressed those sentiments during his annual Black History Month presentation at the Monday Board of Mayor and Commissioners meeting. Black History Month is in February, and Gardner has spoken to the board annually in February for nearly the past eight years. Gardner opened by talking about how many people have a misconception that Africa has little history. However, he said archaeology research proves that Africa has a “rich and great history” than most people believe.
Gardner provided information about the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, which existed for nearly 20 years. “The Mississippi State Sovereign Commission was a state agent in Mississippi from 1956 to 1977 tasked with fighting desegregation and controlling the Civil Rights activities,” Gardner said. “It was overseen by the Governor of Mississippi. The state objective of the commission was to protect the sovereignty of the State of Mississippi and her sister states from erosion therein by the federal government.” Gardner said approximately 87,000 people were on the commission.
Gardner talked about how citizens have an easier time voting today than they did decades ago. “All of this (Mississippi State Sovereign Commission) originated from the Jim Crow system,” he said. “My grandmother couldn’t vote unless she had money to pay poll tax. My mother couldn’t vote unless she could tell you how many jellybeans were in the jar. And all these things were to suppress our people.” Gardner mentioned how the State of Mississippi has been “richer than some other countries” at one time thanks to the cotton industry.
“A lot of people don’t know that, during the 1800s and slavery in the State of Mississippi, every black person worked for free,” he said. “Mississippi was known as King Cotton.” Mayor Chuck Espy expressed gratitude toward Gardner for his presentation on Black History Month and for bringing other issues to the board. “Mr. Gardner, we thank you for what you do in the community and continue to keep us informed,” Espy said. “Because there are items we do not see that you are able to see. We are very thankful.”