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The Biloxi Beach Wade-ins are described as one of South Mississippi’s most significant, historical Civil Rights events. News 25’s Kendra Turley takes us inside a remembrance ceremony in Biloxi that honored the men, women, and children who helped pave the way for desegregation along Mississippi shores.
The diverse group of people you’ll see lining the shores of Biloxi Beach on any given day is a completely different picture than what you would have seen 60 years ago. African Americans were not allowed anywhere along the 26 mile stretch of sandy beaches that served as the heart of the Mississippi tourist industry. Wade in witness Dr. Gilbert Mason Jr. said, “Certainly one of the things that was disappointing was not being able to go out and play in the sand or in the water and noticing that there wasn’t anyone who looked like me in the area at the time.”
Frustrated yet determined, Dr. Gilbert Mason Sr. led a group of men, women, and children onto Biloxi Beach to fight for what seemed so simple: equality. As soon as their feet hit the sands at Biloxi Beach, dozens of those African Americans were brutally beaten by white police officers.
Gulf Coast residents took the time to honor the brave individuals who participated in that moment, known as the Biloxi Wade In, during a remembrance ceremony at the Biloxi Community Center. Author of “Beaches, Blood, and Ballots” Dr. James ‘Pat’ Smith said, “We remember that this official complicity in mob violence resulted in dozens of injuries and gunshot wounds.”
The names of the wade-in participants were read aloud to the crowd, many of whom are still living to this day. Keynote speaker Constance Slaughter-Harvey said, “Was the sand as hot then as today? Have we changed as a society or are we the same as we were in 1960?”
The wade-ins are recognized as a critical part of not only black history, but Mississippi and American history as well. “It just didn’t involve someone writing something down in Washington that made the change. It actually had to do with people struggling and combating and pushing back against desegregation,” said Dr. Mason Jr.

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