April 26th, 1960

Whites Attack Black Protesters at Segregated Mississippi Beach

The Biloxi beach wade-in was a locally-organized nonviolent protest that turned into what the New York Times called the “worse race riot in Mississippi history.” The protesters walked onto Biloxi beach in order to hold a “wade-in” in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. They were met by a group of angry whites who told them to leave the beach. When the protestors refused to leave, the white mob attacked them with sticks, clubs, pipes, and whips. Local law enforcement did nothing to intervene. When white airmen from a nearby Air Force base tried to protect injured protesters, they too were attacked.

The violence on the beach spurred several more violent encounters in the city of Biloxi where whites harassed, attacked, and even shot at black residents. Many blacks had to be escorted from their jobs to their homes by deputies in order to avoid being attacked. Others chose to stay at their workplaces rather than attempt to travel home that night.

The Biloxi beach riots led to the creation of a Biloxi NAACP branch and also catalyzed a legal fight to open local beaches to people of color. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to desegregate beaches in 1960. Twelve years later, in 1972, beaches in Mississippi were officially desegregated.