Belzoni, Mississippi

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Belzoni (pronounced Bell-zone-uh) is a city in Humphreys County, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta region, on the Yazoo River. The population was 2,663 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Humphreys County[1]. It was named for the 19th century Italian archaeologist/explorer Giovanni Battista Belzoni.[2]

The area was named Farm-Raised Catfish Capital of the World in 1976 by then Governor Cliff Finch, since it produces more farm-raised catfish than any other U.S. county.[3] 40,000 acres (160 km2) of the county are underwater, used to grow catfish. About 60% of U.S. farm-raised catfish are grown within a 65-mile (100-km) radius of Belzoni. The title "Catfish Capital" is also claimed by Savannah, Tennessee and Des Allemands, Louisiana. Belzoni is known for the World Catfish Festival held every April.[3]

Contents

History

The area that eventually became Belzoni was originally known as "Greasy Row" because of saloons along the bank of the Yazoo River.[4] In 1895, a charter was granted for the village of Belzoni, although the area had been settled for several decades previously. Steve Castleman, who secured the charter, became the first mayor of Belzoni.[4] When Humphreys County was formed in 1918, Belzoni was selected county seat.[4]

Civil Rights movement

Belzoni, Mississippi was the site of a murder of an early civil rights pioneer. The Rev. George W. Lee, an African-American minister who was seeking voting rights for the disenfranchised blacks of the Mississippi Delta, was murdered in 1955 in "Bloody Belzoni" by racists committed to upholding segregation.[5] His killers were never found, as the governor of Mississippi, Hugh L. White, refused to investigate the case.[6] Many consider him the first martyr of the modern Civil Rights movement.[6]

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