Tonight the City of Biloxi shines a light on the struggle for equality right here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. More than 60 years ago, some brave men and women risked their lives to make a leisure enjoyed by many available to all.
Wade-in Participant Clemon P. Jimerson said, “That’s my only way out of here. Before I got to the sea wall they had some men gathered. As I passed them I heard a voice say you better catch that ‘N’ and you better not let him go.”
The year was 1960 and Clemon P. Jimerson Sr. was 14-years-old. “I was born on Keesler Air Force Base and I live right on Division and Elmer, right on Main Street, and knowing the beach was pretty close by, I’ve basically been waiting all my life for this opportunity.”
Jimerson joined the more than 120 people for a non-violent protest to gain access to the public beach denied to black people by the Jim Crow Laws. “It was just like everything was normal. I look up toward the seawall and after a while you see a vehicle pull in, maybe two men get out and they’re just talking to each other. I didn’t think anything of it, but when I went back and I turn back around it was a whole group of them and they were heading down on the beach toward us.”
Protesters knew they would be asked to leave, but they couldn’t fathom what actually happened. “Once they gathered their mob they actually went down and attacked the group in front of the cemetery and beat them off the beach then they came down and attacked the group by the lighthouse and then they came down to our group last.”
Two people died that day. Now, each year a wade-in witnesses remembrance and roll tribute is held to honor the sacrifices made. Mistress of Ceremony Allytra Perryman said, “So, it’s important that our youth know the struggle that their grandparents and their great-grandparents and their aunts and uncles had gone through because people have made great sacrifices to get to where we are today. We want the youth of today to take that and become champions of justice themselves and move forward with our history.”