GSA Officials Host Natchez Veterans Plaque Dedication
November 10, 2011
WWI memorial honors all who served
Natchez, Miss. – Today, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson and Southeast Sunbelt Regional Administrator Shyam Reddy hosted a dedication ceremony for the unveiling of four bronze plaques commemorating the service of Natchez area Veterans in World War I placed on the façade of the U.S. Courthouse here. The newly fabricated, inclusive plaques are dedicated in gratitude to the men and women of Adams County who served in World War I, and to those who died in the line of duty. A variety of local, state, federal, civic and cultural organizations participated in the event including the City of Natchez, Natchez Museum of African American History & Culture, and Natchez Historic Foundation.
“Today we celebrate and honor the service of veterans across our country with the dedication of this memorial – honoring our past, celebrating our present, and carrying us forward with clear-eyed optimism,” said Johnson. “These new plaques honor all Adams County World War I veterans and are a symbol – not just to the families of those we remember today, but to the veterans and families of every generation – that no matter when you served or for how long and no matter your race, gender, or creed, your country will never leave your side.”
Constructed in 1853, the building was renamed “Memorial Hall” in 1924 to recognize the contributions of World War I veterans. At that time, bronze plaques were installed on the front entrance to the building listing the names of Natchez area veterans. The plaques, cast during the height of the segregationist Jim Crow era, originally excluded the names African American veterans. The newly unveiled plaques honor the service of all Adams County World War I veterans– regardless of race, gender or creed.
The plaques remained in place as the building experienced several changes in ownership including GSA’s acquisition of the building in 2004. Since then, GSA has pursued an ongoing commitment to memorialize all veterans from Adams County and honor the commitment and sacrifice of all who served. GSA conducted extensive historic research to develop an accurate and complete list of names to be included on new plaques.
Johnson remarked: “Today we have righted an 87 years old wrong and given those who served and sacrificed for our freedom the recognition they so richly deserve.
Using military rosters and the Veterans Affairs Board Records’ List of Ex-Servicemen archived at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, and Census records to verify veterans’ names and their places of residency, historians concluded that the names of 700 African American, women and White veterans were excluded from the 1924 plaques. Research cited in a 2008 graduate thesis by Shane Peterson, California State University, also contributed to this effort.
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