Church, cemetery, schools added to National Register of Historic Places

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Mt. Olive Cemetery in Hinds County, one of the oldest private African American graveyards in the state, is one of five Mississippi properties recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The United States Department of the Interior also approved the addition of Hillsboro Methodist Church and Cemetery, Scott County; Mt. Moriah School, Walthall County; Walthall County Training School, Walthall County; and the Wharlest and Exerlena Jackson House, Adams County.

Hillsboro Methodist Church, established circa 1836, initially was a log chapel called Cypress Grove. The three-acre site includes a cemetery containing monuments of six Civil War soldiers and a community bell. The current church was built in 1928 after the original building was destroyed. Today, the church is no longer a place of worship and is maintained by the Hillsboro Methodist Church Cemetery Association.

Mt. Moriah School, built as a grammar school for African-American students, operated from 1931 until 1959. The school is an example of a standardized building plan designed by the Mississippi Department of Education’s School Building Service Division, a state office largely funded by the General Education Board, a philanthropic endeavor of John D. Rockefeller. In 1959, Mt. Moriah School closed after all Walthall County African-American schools were consolidated. In the late 1960s, the school became a Head Start Center, operating until 1991. The building now serves as a community center maintained by local volunteers.

Constructed in the late 1890s, Mt. Olive Cemetery is located on the same block as the historic M. W. Stringer Grand Lodge in Jackson. Prominent African Americans interred at the cemetery include former Mississippi Secretary of State James Hill; Ida Revels Redmond, daughter of Hiram Revels; and Dr. R. L. Johnson, a doctor in Jackson.

Built in 1921, Walthall County Training School operated as a school for African Americans and was supported by the Rosenwald Fund grant program. The Ginns, a family of freedmen who moved to Walthall County after emancipation, initially built a two-room grammar school called Ginntown in the 1890s. In the early 1910s, the community began organizing to participate in the Rosenwald Fund’s grant program. The Walthall County Training School closed in 1959 after all of the county’s African-American schools were consolidated. The building became a Head Start Center in 1966, providing
child-care for 23 years. Walthall County Training School is one of fewer than 20 surviving Rosenwald schools in Mississippi.

The Wharlest and Exerlena Jackson House is the home of Natchez civil rights activist Wharlest Jackson Sr. A Korean War veteran, Jackson moved from Chicago to Natchez in 1954 after getting married. Jackson, who became active in the local chapter of the NAACP while working at a tire and rubber plant, openly lobbied his employer to end discriminatory practices — a fight that led to his promotion to a position previously only held by whites. On his way home after finishing his first shift in his new job, Jackson’s truck exploded from a bomb, instantly killing him. The Wharlest and Exerlena Jackson House is still owned by the Jackson family.

The National Register of Historic Places was established by Congress in 1966 to help identify and protect historically significant properties. Mississippi has more than 1,300 National Register properties, including archaeological sites, battlefields, bridges, buildings, cemeteries, forts, houses, and historic districts.