COFO complex added to Mississippi Freedom Trail

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The latest marker on the Mississippi Freedom Trail was unveiled Wednesday morning by a diverse group ranging from Jackson State University students and faculty to city officials and Gov. Phil Bryant.

The marker contains historical information about the Council of Federated Organizations, whose office on J.R. Lynch Street on the Jackson State campus housed the Mississippi Movement between 1963 and 1965.

COFO as it was known, was an umbrella for an alliance between the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Congress of Racial Equality and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and helped focus civil rights efforts in the state.

“It’s important to remember how far we have come, but the way we have to go is so much further,” Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber said.

Gov. Phil Bryant joins Bob Moses red shirt) and others at the unveiling of the Mississippi Freedom Trail marker at the former COFO complex.

Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today

Gov. Phil Bryant joins Bob Moses (red shirt) and others at the unveiling of the Mississippi Freedom Trail marker at the former COFO complex.

Joining Yarber in making comments were Bryant, who earlier Wednesday declared October as Racial Reconciliation Celebration Month for Mississippi and Robert “Bob” Moses, a Civil Rights era icon who served as COFO program director.

“As you know the Freedom Riders brought the sit-in movement into Mississippi, but when the dust settled about nine months later it was clear that if we were going to work in Mississippi we had to focus on the right to vote,” Moses said.

That realization led to COFO stepping in, and the organization was instrumental in organizing the 1963 Freedom Vote, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which challenged to be seated at the 1964 Democratic National Convention and the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project.

The COFO Complex was renovated in 2011 and today serves as the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute. Students meet to discuss social justice organization and action at the facility.

Dr. Leslie McLemore, a member of the Mississippi Freedom Trail Task Force, reminded the audience that they need input from the public on filling out the Freedom Trail: “If you have a site in mind that you think really had an impact on the movement, you let us know.”