Monday, July 16, 2018

The Mississippi Delta 8b: The I.T. Montgomery House, Mound Bayou

I.T Montgomery house, W. Main  Street, Mound Bayou, Mississippi
The always-informative Preservation in Mississippi blog recently wrote that the National Trust for Historic Preservation had announced its annual “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places” for 2018. Isaiah T. Montgomery's House in Mound Bayou was on the list. From the National Trust:
"Isaiah T. Montgomery House Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Established by former slave Isaiah T. Montgomery, Mound Bayou was one of the earliest all-black municipalities, located in the Mississippi Delta following the Civil War. Today, Montgomery's home is in urgent need of stabilization and rehabilitation."
I wrote about Mound Bayou in 2012, and at that time, I.T. Montgomery's house looked intact, although I was not able to see inside.
Undated photograph of I.T. Montgomery house from Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
During an April 2018 drive through Mound Bayou, I saw some workmen installing heavy timbers abound the periphery of the house to prevent the walls from collapsing outwards. They did not know if other preservation work would follow. The lower floor of the house served as a clinic in the early 20th century.
Edwards Ave. (Old Hwy. 61), view south, Mound Bayou, Mississippi
Today, Mound Bayou looks rough and beat-up. The main road through town, Edwards Avenue, has the standard closed shops and shop-a-minute gas stations.
The former bus stop on Edwards Ave. is an early-20th century shop with square front.
Willie's transmission appears to be closed. You can see the I.T. Montgomery house a block away on the left.
This building at the corner of W. Main and Green Streets was the Bank of Mound Bayou, founded by Charles Banks in 1904, the first Black-owned bank in Mississippi.

The history of Mound Bayou is a story of determination, back-breaking hard work, and a dream of creating a better life for African Americans in an era when they were treated brutally by the Southern white political establishment. National Public Radio featured Mound Bayou in one of their 2017 Our Land series. Booker T. Washington wrote a fascinating description of Mound Bayou's founding and early history in an article titled, "A Town Owned by Negroes, Mound Bayou, Miss., an Example of Thrift and Self-Government," July 1907 (archive from from Johns Hopkins Press).

The black and white photographs are from Kodak TMax 100 film, shot with a Pentax Spotmatic camera (1971 vintage). I scanned the negatives with a Plustek 7600i film scanner controlled with Silverfast Ai software.

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