—Heritage Trails Enrichment Program —
The Dixie Bell Theater
The rights of African-Americans during Reconstruction were greatly increased, and passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U. S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Acts of 1875 seemed to promise more gains. However, the Supreme Court's ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 paved the way for Jim Crow laws, a series of anti-black laws enacted primarily, but not exclusively, in Southern and border states from the late 1800s to the mid-1960s. These laws allowed races to be kept separate with separate schools, hotels, restrooms, parks, libraries, restaurants and theaters. "Whites Only" or "Colored" signs were posted at entrances, exits, waiting rooms and water fountains. Tupelo's 300-seat Dixie Belle Theater located just west of here at 407 Spring Street, operated exclusively for African-Americans from 1950 to 1955 and served an important role in the community. Many an adult and child enjoyed escaping to watch movies of the times. As part of the social center for the black community on Green Street, touring blues, jazz and R&B acts also performed at the Dixie Belle.
The March of Discontent
In 1964, marching black citizens and Tupelo police confronted each other here, at this property that housed the Royal
Crown Cola Bottling Plant. The Tupelo Civic Improvement Club, the precursor in Tupelo to the NAACP, was a body of black citizens working to gain more rights for the African-American community by addressing issues such as increasing voter registration, integration of public schools and minority hiring. They held meetings throughout the black
community. At a meeting at the Henry Hampton Elks Lodge of Tupelo, the capacity crowd decided to march downtown to air their grievances. This was named the "March of Discontent." Citizens along the way joined be group as they made their way past black businesses in the Green street business district - businesses like Debro's Café, Pig Foot and the Lamplighter Inn. As they marched down North Spring Street they approached a police barricade near the RC Cola Plant. A disturbance erupted and several windows in the RC Cola plant were broken out. The police demanded the crowd disband, and while they refused, they did turn around and march back toward the Elks Lodge. After the march, a curfew was enacted and many areas in the African-American community were blocked off.