As the home of Mississippi’s capital city, Hinds County has long been the center of the state’s government as well as a hub of educational, economic, and cultural life. Jackson is Mississippi’s largest city, and Hinds County, a largely urban county in a primarily rural and agricultural state, has been the most populous county in the state since 1860. Chosen in part for its central location, Jackson has great importance to Mississippians as the site of state government, as the headquarters of numerous businesses and other organizations, and as a location for meetings, conferences, entertainment, and even the state fair. The Pearl River runs through Hinds County and Jackson. The county seat is Jackson, and other notable towns include Raymond, Bolton, Cayuga, Clinton, Edwards, Learned, Oakley, Pocahontas, Terry, Tougaloo, and Utica.
Founded in 1821 on land ceded by the Choctaw in the Treaty of Doak’s Stand, Hinds County was named for Gen. Thomas Hinds. Jackson, named for Gen. Andrew Jackson years before he became president, became the capital in 1821, four years after Mississippi statehood. The plan for the city had roots in Thomas Jefferson’s goal for state capitals to be small cities with numerous green spaces. The state government began meeting in Jackson in 1822 in a small brick building that served as the state’s first capitol. The larger, more impressive Greek Revival structure that eventually became known as the Old Capitol was designed by architect William Nichols and constructed in the 1830s, opening in 1839. In 1842 Gov. Tilghman Tucker became the first governor to move into the Governor’s Mansion, also designed by Nichols.
Despite a growing urban core, antebellum Hinds County was an agricultural powerhouse. In its first census in 1830, the county had a population of 5,433 free people and 3,212 slaves. Just ten years later, Hinds County had the state’s second-largest overall population, including the second-largest slave population. In 1840 Hinds had almost twice as many slaves (12,275) as free people (6,823). Jackson had about three hundred people working in manufacturing.
By 1860 Hinds County was the largest in the state, with 8,776 free people and 22,363 slaves, the largest such population and a ratio that ranked thirteenth among Mississippi counties. With its 3,199 people, Jackson was the state’s fourth-largest city, with the second-most people born outside the United States. In 1860 Jackson had the fifth-highest number of manufacturing workers in the state, most of them making woolen goods, but Hinds remained devoted to agriculture. It ranked second in the state in cotton production and was among Mississippi’s top seven counties in corn, livestock, oats, peas and beans, and sweet potatoes.
Hinds County had twenty-three churches in 1860—eight Baptist, seven Methodist, three Presbyterian, two Christian, two Episcopal, and one Catholic. In 1861, fifteen Jewish families founded Beth Israel Congregation.
Jackson was the site of Mississippi’s secession convention and home of the state’s leading secessionist newspaper, the Mississippian, edited by Ethelbert Barksdale. The state government operated in the city until Union forces took it in May 1863. As part of a broad effort to take Vicksburg and weaken the forces that might defend it, Union troops led by Ulysses S. Grant fought back Confederates first at Raymond and then at Jackson. William Sherman’s men quickly burned a considerable number of Jackson buildings and railroads, leading some to begin referring to the city as Chimneyville. The state government had to flee the city.
Postbellum Hinds County grew dramatically, reaching 43,958 people (73 percent of them African Americans) in 1880. About half of the county’s farmers owned their land, while the rest were renters or sharecroppers. The county employed 206 men and 14 women in industry, a number higher than most in the state but not as large as might be expected for a growing urban area. In 1880 Hinds had the state’s second-highest number of foreign-born people, with 501 men and women, mostly from Ireland, Germany, and England.
By 1900 Hinds County’s 186 industrial establishments were the most in the state, while its 6,607 farms were second. Its population of 52,577 included almost 40,000 African Americans. For such a large county, Hinds had a relatively small number of foreign-born residents, with Irish, German, and English immigrants making up the majority of the county’s 275 nonnatives. As a consequence of the county’s large African American majority. Missionary Baptists were the most popular religious group in the 1916 religious census, followed by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South; the Southern Baptist Convention; the Methodist Episcopal Church; the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church; the Catholic Church; and the Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches. Charles P. Jones, a leader of the Church of God in Christ and later of the Church of Christ (Holiness), pastored a church in Jackson in the 1890s and early 1900s.
By the turn of the twentieth century, Jackson was growing in numerous ways. The expansion of government, with new departments and responsibilities, led to the building of the New Capitol, a large and impressive Beaux Arts building designed by Theodore Link that opened in 1903. Farish Street and the surrounding neighborhood became a site for African American business and leadership, with churches, funeral homes, restaurants, and entertainment catering to and mostly run by African Americans.
Hinds County also became a center of the state’s educational activity, with numerous offices dealing with public education as well as a large and diverse array of colleges and universities. Tougaloo College, Millsaps College, and Mississippi College have roots in the 1800s and connections to religious institutions. Hinds was also home to many other institutions that are now defunct, among them Mount Herman Seminary near Clinton; Hillman College (a women’s college that became part of Mississippi College); the Southern Christian Institute in Edwards; St. Andrew’s College in Jackson; Campbell College (a predecessor of Jackson State University); and Utica Normal and Industrial School. The growth of Jackson State University and Hinds Community College expanded educational opportunities, and Jackson State changed from a teachers’ college for African American students to a broad-ranging university with numerous strengths. The University of Mississippi Medical Center opened in Jackson in 1955 and attracted international attention in 1963 and 1964 when surgeon James D. Hardy and his team performed the world’s first lung and heart transplants.
Sometimes in partnership with the city’s educational institutions, Jackson writers have produced an extraordinary body of work. The importance of books and reading showed in one of the key events of the city’s civil rights history, when students from Tougaloo College staged a sit-in at an whites-only library. Eudora Welty was born in Jackson in 1909 and resided there for most of her life. Living near the Belhaven campus and with friends throughout the city, Welty used Jackson and many other Mississippi locations as settings for her work. Richard Wright spent part of his childhood in Jackson and in Black Boy memorably detailed frustrations with his education in the city. Margaret Walker Alexander, author of “For My People,” Jubilee, and many other works, spent much of her professional life teaching at Jackson State University. Playwright Beth Henley was born in Jackson, as were novelist Richard Ford and poets James T. Whitehead, Turner Cassity, John Stone, and John Freeman. John Alfred Williams, a leader of the Black Arts movement, was born in Jackson in 1925, and poet and literary scholar Jerry Ward helped lead a movement of artists connected to Tougaloo College in the 1980s. Barry Hannah grew up in Clinton, attended Mississippi College, and set some of his work there. Poet Sterling Plumpp grew up outside Clinton and moved to Jackson before leaving the state. Novelist Kathryn Stockett grew up in Hinds County and set her best-selling novel, The Help, in 1960s Jackson.
Hinds is far less famous for its music scene than are New Orleans, Memphis, and the Mississippi Delta, but the county has been important both as a place to play and record and as the home of numerous notable musicians. Early blues artists such as Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, and the Chatmon family grew up in rural Hinds, and Patton made his first recordings in Jackson. Farish Street has been the home of extraordinary music of various genres, and record labels Trumpet Records, Ace Records, and Malaco Records started in Jackson. Blues and jazz singer Cassandra Wilson was born in Jackson in 1955, and rap musician David Banner (Levell Crump) is a Jackson native whose lyrics frequently comment on Mississippi issues. Country musician Faith Hill and R&B singer Dorothy Moore also have roots in Hinds. Musicians not affiliated with distinctively southern forms of music also hail from Jackson. Conductor and composer Lehman Engel, born in 1910, grew up in the city, as did innovative contemporary musician Milton Babbitt. Jackson’s festivals, concert halls, colleges, and churches have offered settings for a great deal of music, and the Mississippi Mass Choir got its start in the city in 1988.
The state’s capital city and largest urban area is also home to one of Mississippi’s most active and eclectic settings for the visual arts. The Mississippi Art Association began in 1911 to solicit work for the state fair, and its efforts eventually led to the creation of the Mississippi Museum of Art. Painter William Hollingsworth, born in 1910, has been called the Faulkner of Visual Arts because of his range of work about the people of Mississippi. Marie Hull did extraordinary work while teaching from her home in Jackson. Many artists had affiliations with Jackson colleges. While Karl and Mildred Wolfe were establishing the Wolfe Studio, for example, they also taught at Millsaps College. The Mississippi Art Colony has met in Utica since the 1970s, and the Tougaloo Art Colony began operation in 1997. Recent artists with strong Hinds County connections include painters Randy Hayes, Mary Lovelace O’Neal, Lynn Green Root, Laurence Arthur Jones, and Wyatt Waters; sculptor James Seawright; and stained glass artist Andrew Young. Architect N. W. Overstreet and his firm, working in Jackson from the 1910s through the 1960s, helped define the look of the city, creating many modernist buildings of reinforced concrete. The firm’s work included the monumental Bailey School (designed by Overstreet and A. H. Town), an Art Deco building with sculptural concrete reliefs of Andrew Jackson and Chief Pushmataha; the Walthall Hotel; and the First National Bank building (now Trustmark).
In 1930, with more than eighty-five thousand people, Hinds County was Mississippi’s leading urban center. With about one thousand people per square mile, Hinds had the densest population in the state as well as the most whites and second-most African Americans. Hinds had the second-highest number of industrial workers (more than twenty-five hundred), and it still had more than sixty-six hundred farms. As in most of the state, by 1930 the majority of the county’s farmers, black and white, were tenants.
Hinds County’s population more than doubled to 187,045 between 1930 and 1960 and grew to 250,998 by 1980, maintaining its standing as most populated county with the highest density. Sixty percent of the population was white, and almost 50 percent had a high school education or more, the highest percentage in the state. Fewer than 4,000 members of the labor force of more than 80,000 were involved in agriculture. Many important Mississippi businesses—among them McRae’s Department Stores, the Jitney Jungle groceries, Mississippi Power and Light, and WorldCom—maintained headquarters in Hinds County.
As the state capital, Jackson has been the primary location for Mississippi’s media, beginning with the Eastern Clarion, predecessor of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Other newspapers have included or still include the Jackson Daily News; the city’s leading African American–run newspaper, the Jackson Advocate; the Prohibition newspaper Mississippi White Ribbon; the civil rights newspaper Eagle Eye; the 1960s counterculture publication the Kudzu; and the current Mississippi Magazine and Jackson Free Press. The Clarion-Ledger has long had the state’s highest newspaper circulation, and its notable journalists and columnists have included Tom Ethridge, Bill Minor, and Jerry Mitchell. Jackson was also home to Mississippi’s first and largest television stations and now hosts the state’s public television and radio network.
In the 1950s and 1960s, with its combination of a large African American population, key institutions, and inspired and creative leadership, Jackson became one of the centers of the state’s civil rights movement. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other groups had operated in Jackson for years, with voting rights work and the development of educational institutions among the most notable efforts. Many more recent protesters attended Tougaloo College, while others came from other colleges, especially Jackson State, and the city’s churches, labor and civic groups. In the early 1960s protesters began a series of efforts to integrate all-white libraries, lunch counters, bus stations, other business locations, churches, and public facilities. In 1961 Freedom Riders dramatized transportation segregation and many spent part of the summer in jail. An extended boycott in 1962–63, led primarily by NAACP secretary Medgar Evers, called for an end to racial segregation, and Evers’s June 1963 murder demonstrated the lengths to which opponents of civil rights would go. Hinds County is also important because numerous activists who grew up there, including Carpenter’s A. M. E. Logan, Terry’s Robert C. Smith, Edwards’s George Lee, and Jackson’s Gladys Noel Bates, Charles McLaurin, Constance Slaughter-Harvey, Colia L. L. Clark, Gilbert Mason, and Henry T. Wingate, among many others.
Jackson was also notable for opposition to civil rights work. While civil rights activists started Womanpower Unlimited to help jailed activists, Jackson was also the home of Women for Constitutional Government, a southern organization that condemned federal efforts to desegregate schools. Jackson was the headquarters of the Citizens’ Council and its first school, Citizens’ Council School Number 1. While the Jackson Chamber of Commerce called for obeying federal laws requiring desegregation, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, also headquartered in the city, worked to maintain segregation. In 1967 the bombing of the Temple Beth Israel, where Rabbi Perry Nussbaum had criticized racial segregation, demonstrated further divisions in the community.
In recent years, Hinds County has become the center for an expanding institutional base for a multiethnic Mississippi. The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life began work in Jackson in 1986, continuing the work of the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica. In 1992 some Jackson ministers founded Mission Mississippi to encourage better relations between white and African American Christians, and in 2000 the International Museum of Muslim Cultures opened to encourage study and understanding of that faith. Jackson is home to Mississippi’s largest community of Indian immigrants, many of them drawn to the city’s computer industry. Festivals celebrating Irish culture, Italian life, and Greek life (building on the city’s history of Greek restaurants) are important annual events.
By 1980 the number of Hinds County residents involved in agriculture had declined to less than 1,000. Conversely, the manufacturing workforce continued to grow, reaching 9,450 in 1960 and 15,500 in 1980. Industry in Hinds revolved around the production of furniture, durable goods, and food products. More than 6,500 persons were employed in retail trade, with finance, insurance, and real estate employing another 4,421. Hospitals, public administration, and education were other large employers. In 1980 Hinds boasted the highest personal income, bank deposits, and retail sales in the state and had the second-highest per capita income.
During the second half of the twentieth century Hinds’s population increased by about 58,000 people, and between 1980 and 2010, it grew by nearly 70,000, reaching 245,285. The county’s racial profile shifted dramatically, as a two-thirds white majority became to a two-thirds black majority, a consequence not only of new African American arrivals but also of white flight to neighboring counties. By the second decade of the twenty-first century, small Latino/Hispanic and Asian minorities had emerged in Hinds County as well as in neighboring Madison County.
- Mississippi State Planning Commission, Progress Report on State Planning in Mississippi (1938)
- Mississippi Statistical Abstract, Mississippi State University (1952–2010)
- Charles Sydnor and Claude Bennett, Mississippi History (1939)
- University of Virginia Library, Historical Census Browser website, http://mapserver.lib.virginia.edu
- E. Nolan Waller and Dani A. Smith, Growth Profiles of Mississippi’s Counties, 1960–1980 (1985)