Aaron Henry:
Many of us think that segregation has been with us for a long, long time. Well, Mississippi didn't have segregation until 1890. From 1865 to 1876 was the freest period which blacks have ever witnessed in America and particularly in Mississippi. It was after the Tilden-Hayes compromise [The Compromise of 1877], the presidential race of 1876 where Rutherford Hayes told the southerners that "If you'll make me president I'll remove the troops from the South and turn the blacks back over into the hands of the white landowners." Now between 1865 and 1876 Mississippi sent two blacks to the Senate of the United States--[Blanche Kelso] Bruce and [Hiram Rhodes] Revels. The fact that the constitutional convention in Mississippi did not meet until 1890 and it was in 1890 when the Jim Crow laws were written into our structure. From 1865 until 1890--definitely from 1865 to 1876--you had black and white kids going to school together, you had no segregation. Because the Thirteen, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments had just passed and all of these were about black rights in the black community. And it was really 1890, when we finally got around to making segregation legal. It was really 1896 before the Supreme Court took a position on separate but equal. That was in the Plessy vs. Ferguson case that grew out of Louisiana in regard to a dining room car on a train where a black refused to sit behind a curtain. And this case came before the United States Supreme Court and it there ruled that separate but equal was legal. And from 1896 until 1954 [Brown v. Board of Education] we lived with that doctrine in this country.

- Aaron Henry, NAACP officeholder and chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party

Interview with Aaron Henry by Jack Bass, April 2, 1974, Interview A-0107, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection #4007, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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