Jackson State University was honored during a recent ceremony by the Heritage Award Trust for preserving one of the oldest private cemeteries for African-Americans in Mississippi.
The event, held in Ocean Springs and presented by BankPlus, cited JSU’s restoration of the historic Mount Olive Cemetery. The landmark earned the Heritage Award for Excellence in African American Preservation. The gravesite was established in the early 1800s to late 1900s as a private plantation cemetery for blacks.
Mount Olive is among 43 historic preservation sites cited for telling the story of Mississippi. Others included Individuals, civic organizations, educational institutions and local, county and state governments.Mount Olive is among 43 historic preservation sites cited for telling the story of MississippiHeather Wilcox, assistant director for JSU’s Center for University University-Based Development (CUBD), led the task to restore Mount Olive.
“We’re receiving an honor for something that we recently completed. It was a justification for the important work we’re doing and shows how it fares with Mississippi and what other organizations are doing. We’re really honored to be a part of this prestigious list,” Wilcox said.
JSU’s restoration resulted in the refurbishment of two statues: Ida Revels Redmond and James “Jim” Hill. Ida Revels Redmond was the daughter of Hiram Revels, the first African-American to serve in the U.S. Congress to represent Mississippi in 1870 and 1871. James “Jim” Hill was a former slave who was elected as Mississippi’s Secretary of State from 1874-1878. In 1912, an elementary school located on Lynch Street was named in his honor. The school later transitioned into Jim Hill High School.
The cemetery continues to need continual care and maintenance, Wilcox said. As such, JSU has applied for a $500,000 grant from the National Park Service that would support restoration of most of the mausoleums and headstones in the cemetery. CUBD expects to get an answer in September.
Meanwhile, the National Park Service visited JSU recently and conducted an impromptu meeting at the cemetery. It also visited the COFO building and other historic sites on the Lynch Street corridor.
“We want to make a case for how all these components play into revitalizing the community,” Wilcox said.