Eighth Of May Program
On February 26, 2005, Renita Holmes, astudent atMSMS at the time, conducted a Zoom interview with Mr. Chuck Yarborough and proposed the idea of a Black History Month Program. Yarborough responded that it was too late for such a program, but suggested commemorating Emancipation Day on the Eighth of May instead. Since May 2005, the Eighth of May Emancipation Day Program has been held annually at the Historical Sandfield Cemetery. During the program, students from the MSMS African American history classes portray notable African American leaders from Columbus’ late 19th and early 20th centuries through monologues, poems, and songs.
On Monday, May 8, 2023, the MSMS students of the African American history class performed the Eighth of May Emancipation Day Program at Sandfield Cemetery. The Columbus Middle School Choir presented several songs, and the MSMS Blue Diamondz and the MSMS Blue Knightz delivered a Step Performance as part of the program.
At the start of the event, Chuck Yarborough acknowledged Laverne Greene. In September 1966, Greene was one of six local women who integrated what was then the Mississippi State College for Women, now Mississippi University for Women. These women, including Diane Hardy, Barbara Turner, Jacqueline Edwards, Mary Flowers, and Eula House, faced isolation, threats, and harassment as they worked to end 82 years of racial segregation at the historic institution. The Mississippi University for Women was the first state-supported college for women in the United States, but it initially excluded African American women from its student body and educational opportunities. Laverne Greene and her peers played a heroic role in breaking down those barriers and opening up access to education and its accompanying opportunities. The community owes a debt of gratitude to them.
The Eighth of May holds significance as the day when freedom became a possibility for Columbus and the surrounding area, marking the end of slavery for thousands of African Americans in the region. On May 8, 1865, Union Troops arrived and liberated the enslaved individuals in Columbus and Lowndes County.
The MSMS students undertake this project as a class assignment. They conduct research on individuals buried at Sandfield Cemetery and use their findings to create an original script for the performance, shedding light on the African American experiences during the late 19th and 20th centuries. This project has gained national attention and has been presented at various conferences, featured in local, regional, and national publications. It was also showcased in the HBO documentary “Our Towns” on April 13, 2021. Additionally, the project was part of the Mississippi Department of Archives & History’s “History Is Lunch” series in 2019 and was featured in the Society of Mississippi Archivists virtual table talk series in February 2021.
The MSMS African American History Students would like to thank Ms. Shelia Horton-Brown, Mr. Chuck Yarborough, Columbs Middle School Choir, Mr. Andrew Miller, The City of Columbus & Mayor Keith Gaskin, MUW, President Nora Miller of MUW, Columbus Recreation Department & Greg Lewis, Columbus Public Works Department & Casey Bush, Starkville Civil War Arsenal & Duffy Neubauer, Columbus-Lowndes Public Library & Mona Vance-Ali, Visit Columbus, Friendly City Books, Emily Liner, Preservation Society of Columbus, Against All Odds/MSU Libraries and DeeDee Baldwin.