In February 2023, the Mississippi House passed Bill 1020, which would create a majority-White district within the predominantly Black capital city of Jackson. State Representative Trey Lamar, the new district’s chief proponent, claims the bill will lower crime; critics describe it as modern Jim Crow law.
The new district’s officials would not be elected but appointed, meaning Jackson’s residents would have no vote on the matter, though 12 percent of their sales taxes would be redirected to help pay for the changes.
The new district would be patrolled by Mississippi Capitol police, led by that force’s White chief and supervised by the White state commissioner of public safety, while the district’s prosecutors and public defenders would be chosen by the state’s White attorney general. The White chief justice of Mississippi’s Supreme Court, meanwhile, would handpick the district’s two supervising judges, who would oversee all criminal and civil cases, including the existing backlog of cases.
Rather than adequately fund Jackson’s current system, Lamar and his allies have decided to create an “all-white power base” in an urban county that is 83 percent Black, the Daily Beast reported.
“Nobody at this point has asked me or my staff any questions about what our real needs are,” says Gail Lowry, Hinds County public defender. Many Black residents already question whether Jackson officers know how to police Black neighborhoods; they worry that the Capitol Police will be even less sensitive, as many of its officers are from counties known for racial prejudice.
While individual social-media accounts have expressed alarm, few reports about this story have made the national media—which forgets, perhaps, that Mississippi has historic form as a forerunner in this area, being the first US state to create Black Codes, and in 1922 being only a few votes away from attempting to ship its Black residents “back to Africa.”
Rep. Lamar dismisses all these concerns. “If you’re not committing crimes in Jackson, you really don’t have anything to worry about,” says Lamar—himself a resident of the majority-White North Mississippi town of Senatobia, 170 miles north of the capital city he wants to reorganize. According to the U.S. Census, Jackson’s population is about 150,000; Senatobia’s, 8,100.
Jared Gans, “Three Things to Know About What Critics Are Calling Mississippi’s ‘Jim Crow’ Bill,” The Hill, March 4, 2023.
Kali Holloway, “Jim Crow Is Resurrected in Mississippi,” The Daily Beast, February 27, 2023.
Student Researcher: Gina Franciosi (Frostburg State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)