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Co-Lin Natchez presenting Parchman documentary

There are some words or phrases that evoke negative feelings just by saying or reading them.

The word Parchman, as the State Penitentiary of Mississippi is commonly known, is one of those words.  Even without firsthand knowledge, most Mississippi residents understand the disturbing emotion raised by the thoughts of this infamous prison located in the Mississippi Delta. Just the chilling implication of Parchman is enough but what the survivors experienced in their harrowing imprisonment was indeed horrendous. All this story is recounted in the documentary, “The Parchman Ordeal: The Untold Story.”

The documentary was edited and produced by local author and award-winning filmmaker G. Mark LaFrancis; Darrell White, the curator of the Natchez Museum of African-American History and Culture; and Robert Morgan, an emerging filmmaker and researcher.

These three men spent countless hours compiling the stories of some of the 150 mostly African-American Natchez residents who experienced what most people would consider a nightmare. As young people, they were swept off the streets of Natchez during a peaceful protest and bused to Parchman, where they suffered atrocious acts of abuse and torture. Until the filming of this documentary, many of these survivors ’stories of imprisonment had never been shared.

In honor of African-American History Month, The Parchman Ordeal documentary will be presented to Copiah-Lincoln Community College students and the Natchez community today, from 12:30-2 p.m.  The free event will be held at Co-Lin’s Natchez Campus in the Nelson Multi-Purpose Room. This is located in the Redd Watkins Career and Technical Education Building, 30 Campus Drive.  The documentary will last approximately one hour. The editors and some of the Parchman survivors will be available to answer questions following the video.

DVDs of the documentary will be available for purchase at a reduced price, along with copies of “The Parchman Ordeal: 1965 Civil Rights Injustice.” This recently published book by the documentary’s editors is also based on the experiences of the Parchman survivors. The book, published by The History Press and with a foreword by Civil Rights activist, James Meredith, is $22.

Presenting this free event are The Carolyn Vance Smith Natchez Literary Research Center, the Willie Mae Dunn Library and the S.O.A.R. program, all at Co-Lin Natchez campus. For more information about the event please call the Co-Lin library 601-446-1107 or email beth.richard@colin.edu.

Our campus is thankful for the opportunity to aid in bringing this story about local heroes to the community. Our goal is summed up in the words of our former First Lady Michelle Obama.

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”

Beth Richard is the director of library services at the Natchez campus of Copiah-Lincoln Community College.