A few months before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr visited Marks, Mississippi and spoke at the Eudora African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church to rally support for the Christian Leadership Conference’s “Poor People’s Campaign,” a nationwide march to Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1968 to raise awareness of economic disparity and persistent poverty, which was so evident in the Mississippi Delta. The Eudora Church also provided meeting space and hot meals for Freedom Riders and PPC organizers.

Marks, Mississippi

Marks is a small town of about 1500 residents in Quitman County, the heart of the Mississippi Delta. In June, I spent time with Mrs. Velma Wilson, the current Quitman County Administrator, to hear her stories and experiences of the area.

 A few months before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr visited Marks, Mississippi and spoke at the Eudora African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church to rally support for the Christian Leadership Conference’s “Poor People’s Campaign,” a nationwide march to Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1968 to raise awareness of economic disparity and persistent poverty, which was so evident in the Mississippi Delta. The Eudora Church also provided meeting space and hot meals for Freedom Riders and PPC organizers.

A few months before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr visited Marks, Mississippi and spoke at the Eudora African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church to rally support for the Christian Leadership Conference’s “Poor People’s Campaign,” a nationwide march to Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1968 to raise awareness of economic disparity and persistent poverty, which was so evident in the Mississippi Delta. The Eudora Church also provided meeting space and hot meals for Freedom Riders and PPC organizers.

Marks’ Old African American High School is one of the few remaining Rosenwald Schools in Mississippi.

Marks’ Old African American High School is one of the few remaining Rosenwald Schools in Mississippi.

This school building is also one of the oldest historic properties left standing in the African American community.

The Julius Rosenwald Foundation constructed the building in 1922, and it has served the African American community for over 90 plus years providing educational and enrichment opportunities for ten of thousands of students and their families. It represents a symbol of inspiration, hope, and pride to the community at large.

The restoration of this building will help preserve a “gem” of Quitman County’s history that was designated as a Mississippi Landmark in July 2015. The preservation of this school will be a tribute to Julius Rosenwald for his investment to the betterment of mankind. He built over 5,000 schools for black students in the Jim Crow South era. Julius Rosenwald was a 20th-century Jewish philanthropist who made his fortune by co-founding the department store we refer to as Sears.” Taken from Quitman County Brochure

In 2018, the Northwest Mississippi Regional Station of Amtrak opened in Marks, Mississippi.

In 2018, the Northwest Mississippi Regional Station of Amtrak opened in Marks, Mississippi.

Seven days a week, the southbound (#58) and northbound (#59) “City of New Orleans” passenger train stops in Marks en route to New Orleans or Chicago. And seven days at 8:01 am and 8:31 pm, Miss Cleo, a longtime Marks resident, greets passengers from the “City of New Orleans” at the Marks station. Sometimes she welcomes visitors with coffee and other times she greets folks with cookies.

 In 2011, Mrs. Velma Benson-Wilson returned to her hometown of Marks, Mississippi to research a biography she was writing about her mother entitled "What’s in the Water: Fannie, A Legacy of Love". She quickly reconnected to Quitman County by donating proceeds of the book to community organizations in need. Mrs. Wilson’s community involvement and her success in the bringing an Amtrak stop to Marks after a twenty-year community effort led her to be appointed as the current Quitman County Administrator. She splits her time between the Mississippi Delta and Tennessee where she and her husband have lived for years.  Mrs. Benson-Wilson has focused upon asset-based community development in Quitman County, highlighting the crucial role that Marks played in the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, which led to federally-funded free and reduced lunch programs.  According to a Mississippi Freedom Trail Marker:  “In March 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. visited Marks to get support for a Poor People’s Campaign. He envisioned masses converging on Washington in a plea for new anti-poverty projects. King wanted the march to begin in Mississippi, with mules and wagon trains. After King’s death on April 4 the SCLC (Student Christian Leadership Conference) organized the Marks Mule Train, which left May 13 in inclement weather. Though finally forced to travel via other transportation, Mississippians joined others in the National Mall encampment called Resurrection City.”  Shown here is the site of the future Marks Interpretative Center and Amtrak Waiting Room. Mrs. Wilson envisioned a community space that educates visitors on the valuable histories within the Marks community, as well as the role that Marks has played in the civil rights movement.

In 2011, Mrs. Velma Benson-Wilson returned to her hometown of Marks, Mississippi to research a biography she was writing about her mother entitled "What’s in the Water: Fannie, A Legacy of Love". She quickly reconnected to Quitman County by donating proceeds of the book to community organizations in need. Mrs. Wilson’s community involvement and her success in the bringing an Amtrak stop to Marks after a twenty-year community effort led her to be appointed as the current Quitman County Administrator. She splits her time between the Mississippi Delta and Tennessee where she and her husband have lived for years.

Mrs. Benson-Wilson has focused upon asset-based community development in Quitman County, highlighting the crucial role that Marks played in the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, which led to federally-funded free and reduced lunch programs.

According to a Mississippi Freedom Trail Marker:

“In March 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. visited Marks to get support for a Poor People’s Campaign. He envisioned masses converging on Washington in a plea for new anti-poverty projects. King wanted the march to begin in Mississippi, with mules and wagon trains. After King’s death on April 4 the SCLC (Student Christian Leadership Conference) organized the Marks Mule Train, which left May 13 in inclement weather. Though finally forced to travel via other transportation, Mississippians joined others in the National Mall encampment called Resurrection City.”

Shown here is the site of the future Marks Interpretative Center and Amtrak Waiting Room. Mrs. Wilson envisioned a community space that educates visitors on the valuable histories within the Marks community, as well as the role that Marks has played in the civil rights movement.