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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Fill In the Blank: 1939

Fill In the Blank: 1939

January 1939. "Beer hall. Mound Bayou, Mississippi." View full size. 35mm nitrate negative by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration.

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New and Improved

Now in living color! Click to enlarge.

Mound Bayou

My grandparents lived not far from Mound Bayou and I visited them often, in the 60s and 70s. Most little Delta towns in those days were controlled by the whites, no matter what the population ratio was, but Mound Bayou was known as the town of, by, and for African-Americans, according to the white talk of the day. I drove through a number of times, but don't recall it looking significantly different from Drew or Ruleville or any of the other towns in that area.

Watch your step...

The first one is a doozy, building on the right.


Jeffery Wright

Royal Club

Small 19th-century wood-frame buildings still stand in the poorer districts of Mississippi's cities, towns, and wide spots in the road. The most comprehensive example of this that I have found is the western neighborhoods Jackson, the state capital. The divide between the haves and have-nots never really disappeared here.

Miss. Liquor Sales

Mississippi did not end statewide prohibition until 1962; however, each county had its own saloons and bootleggers who operated with the complicity of the police.

After 1962, there was the "local option," in which a town could be dry and the county wet, or vice versa. Lauderdale County was dry in 1979; Meridian, the county seat, was wet.

Until 1984 when national drinking age was raised to 21, MS was 18 for beer and 21 for everything else. So some towns were wet for liquor and dry for beer ... Starkville, home of MSU, was one.

What 'Mound Bayou' said...

When my family moved to the South in the 60's you could easily still find places like this even in larger cities - even into the early 80s. Too poor to tear them down, too poor to build new - ancient structures abided in many forms from homes, factories, and juke joints like these.

I've passed through the town at least once. Mound Bayou was founded by two former slaves of Joe Davis, the older brother of Jefferson Davis:


Shortly after the war in 1867, the Montgomery’s entered an agreement with Joe Davis for the purchase of the plantations, consisting of four thousand acres, for $300,000 at 6% per annum. Joe Davis wished that the plantations would be managed by the Montgomery’s as a home and for the benefit of their former slaves.

Full Frontal

I love the stark frontality of this view. It also looks like the sign-painter who did the "Royal Club" sign was influenced by the lettering style of the famous Coca-Cola logo, as seen next door.

[Note that the sign painter signed his work. - Dave]

Ole Miss

I guess Mississippi wasn't dry in 1939. It was when I was at Biloxi in 1958 and 59, except for Harrison County of course.


"Juking? Oh! Well, that's when you get in a car, which is preferably open in any kind of weather. And then you drink a little bit and you drive a little bit, and then you stop and you dance a little bit with a jukebox. And then you drink a little bit more and you drive a little bit more, you stop and you dance a little bit more to another juke box! And then you stop dancing and you just drink and you drive. And then, you stop driving."

-- Tennessee Williams, "Orpheus Descending"

Mound Bayou

I worked around Mound Bayou and the surrounding communities from 1985 until 1990.

This is what most of the small Delta town main streets still looked like even then. Little had changed between 1850, 1939 and 1990. Most of the little Delta towns were time capsules.

I don't know if anything has changed since, but I see highway 61 is at least now 4 lane.

Wines, Beer and ...


SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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