Mississippi History Now, an online publication of the Mississippi Historical Society, has recently published its newest article. “Minnie Geddings Cox and the Indianola Affair, 1902-1904,” was written by Shennette Garrett-Scott, an assistant professor of history and African American studies at the University of Mississippi. Garrett-Scott recently served as a visiting fellow in history at the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University, where she conducted research for her manuscript titled “Let Us Have a Bank”: The St. Luke Bank and Black Women in Finance, 1900-1930s, forthcoming from Columbia University Press.
Minnie Geddings Cox and the Indianola Affair, 1902-1904
In January 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt refused to accept the resignation of Minnie Geddings Cox, postmistress for the city of Indianola and Mississippi’s first African American postmistress. Roosevelt subsequently closed Indianola’s post office, and it remained closed for more than a year. The newspapers called the incident the “Indianola Affair.” Raised by business owner parents and educated at one of the premier schools for aspiring African American women, Cox sought opportunities beyond the traditional expectations for women of the time.
In 1891, President Benjamin Harrison appointed Cox to the position of postmistress for Holmes County, making her the first African American postmistress in Mississippi, and in 1897, newly-elected President William McKinley appointed Cox as postmistress of Sunflower County. The college educations, land and property holdings, civil servant positions, and comfortable salaries of Minnie and her husband, Wayne Wellington Cox, placed them firmly near the top of the social and economic hierarchy in the region.
Around 1902, however, whites in the Mississippi Delta, agitated by the combination of an economic depression, a power grab by the southern wing of the Republican Party, and an aggressive political contest for governor, channeled their anxieties onto African Americans, and Cox found herself in the crosshairs of this conflict.
To read “Minnie Geddings Cox and the Indianola Affair, 1902-1904,” go to http://mshistorynow.mdah.ms.gov/.
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