Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science student Erika Wheeler, of Greenwood, performs as Louisa Boulden at Sandfield Cemetery in this Dispatch file photo. Photo by: Dispatch file photo
May 7, 2014 9:58:57 AM
Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science students will perform an "8th of May Emancipation Celebration" in a Columbus cemetery Thursday.
The event will celebrate the city's African American history through song and historic vignettes. It will take place at historic Sandfield Cemetery at 5:30 p.m. and at 6:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public.
The cemetery, which is located near the corner of College Street and 25th Street South, is believed to be the oldest African-American cemetery in Columbus. It was purchased by the city in 1854 in response to complaints about blacks and whites being buried together in another city cemetery, according to Chuck Yarborough, a local historian and MSMS teacher.
Students in Yarborough's African American History class and the MSMS Voice in Harmony choir will perform the "8th of May Emancipation Celebration."
The date is significant.
On May 8, 1865, federal troops that had previously been stationed in Alabama arrived in Columbus. Their arrival effectively ended the Civil War in the area and emancipated slaves once and for all, Yarborough said.
The event Thursday will honor the memory of and commemorate the contributions of late-19th and early-20th century local black leaders. Yarborough said the MSMS choir has been preparing for the event since February. The history students have been researching local leaders buried in the cemetery for almost two months.
The leaders who will be portrayed include the Rev. Jesse F. Boulden, who served in the state House of Representatives; Robert Gleed Sr., a former slave who elected as Lowndes County's representative in the state Senate; Richard Denthrift Littlejohn, who founded and published an African American newspaper in Columbus in 1887 until the early 1900s; Jack Rabb, a former slave who became a prosperous black businessman in the late 1800s; William Isaac Mitchell, who became principal of Union Academy, the first public school for black children established in Columbus; and J.M. Coleman, a former farm laborer who became a cashier at the Penny Savings Bank in the early 1900s and the man Coleman Elementary School is named after.
Roughly 24 students from MSMS will perform.
William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.
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