We are the Oktibbeha County Branch of the NAACP (Unit 5322) and we are here to serve and fight on behalf of our Oktibbeha community.
Oktibbeha County is a county located in the east central portion of Mississippi. The Choctaw had long occupied much of this territory prior to European exploration and United States acquisition. The name Oktibbeha is a Native American word meaning either "icy creak (ice there in creek)" or "bloody water" because of the battles fought there between the Chickasaws and Choctaws. The modern early European-American settlement of the area was started formally in the 1830s during the period of Indian Removal initiated by President Andrew Jackson. The Choctaw of Oktibbeha County ceded their claims to land in the area to the United States in the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830. They were removed to other lands west of the Mississippi River, in Indian Territory, part of what became the state of Oklahoma.
Sometime during the late 1950s, following a visit to Starkville by NAACP state field secretary, Medgar Evers, local African American leader Dr. Douglas Conner began to consider founding a local chapter in Starkville. Evers told Conner “Starkville needs a chapter of the NAACP” and suggested that Conner would be the right person to lead it (Conner and Marszalek, A Black Physician’s Story, 105). Conner knew well that nearby Columbus had the state’s largest chapter in 1953 with four hundred members, and that their leader, the Columbus dentist, Dr. Emmett J. Stringer had served one term as state president of the NAACP. It seemed logical that Starkville, home to Mississippi State University, should have a chapter as well.
Founding a local chapter happened slowly, however, even though Conner became personally active in the organization. Only during the mid-1960s, as some Starkville African Americans gradually joined Conner and other black leaders in voter registration drives, did locals become more receptive to the idea of it. Support finally coalesced in 1969 when prompted by mounting concerns over the still-segregated public school system and continued unequal employment and shopping opportunities in the downtown.
The Oktibbeha County chapter of the NAACP was founded on April 1, 1969 at Starkville’s Griffin Methodist Church. In his keynote address, Dr. Conner called upon the “foot-draggers in the black community” to act, reminding them that change would happen only by acting “as one, large, united, dynamic, courageous whole” (Conner and Marszalek, 149). Under Conner’s leadership durings the 1970s and 1980s, the Oktibbeha County NAACP served as a linchpin in the local struggle for social justice. The chapter played a pivotal role in pushing for school desegregation, equal treatment of African American school teachers and administrators, and equal employment and shopping opportunities in the downtown.
Later, under the chapter’s first female president, Dorothy Bishop, the chapter continued to press for equal treatment under the law for local African American citizens in the 1990s.