I’ve decided to start a new series for the blog called 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Life in Ripley. This is the first entry in this series.
1. Ripley was known for the largest African American Labor Day Celebration in the United States
My husband always made sure that we made it to Ripley every year for Labor Day. When I would ask why he would always say “Everybody comes home for Labor Day.” True enough, we would bump into his old friends and his family would always come into town. I thought about this memory as I read through Kate Johnston Peters “Lauderdale County From Earliest Times”. Peters mentions that Ripley had the largest Black Labor Day Celebration in all of the United States. This event was planned and directed by Blacks with supervision from three White men. The book does not state what year this celebration began, but it does state that it moved to Rice Park, which was donated to the Black community by WGL Rice. There aren’t very many details about what this celebration included. Did they have contests, pageants, games, a parade, etc? I wonder if my husband’s insistence on visiting Ripley every Labor Day somehow stems from a tradition started in the Black community in Ripley.
Do you have memories of big Labor Day celebrations in Ripley? I’d love to hear them.
– Source: Kate Johnston Peters “Lauderdale County From Earliest Times” page 134.
– Image Source: Kate Johnston Peters “Lauderdale County From Earliest Times”. Picture taken the first year Rice Park was opened.