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Clarksdale, Mississippi
—  City  —
Location of Clarksdale, Mississippi
Coordinates: 34°11′52″N 90°34′19″W / 34.19778°N 90.57194°W / 34.19778; -90.57194
Country United States
State Mississippi
County Coahoma
 - Mayor Henry Espy
 - Total 13.8 sq mi (35.9 km2)
 - Land 13.8 sq mi (35.8 km2)
 - Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 174 ft (53 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 20,645
 - Density 1,491.8/sq mi (576.0/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 - Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 38614, 38669
Area code(s) 662
FIPS code 28-13820
GNIS feature ID 0666084

Clarksdale is a city in Coahoma County, Mississippi, United States. The population was 20,645 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Coahoma County[1].

Clarksdale was named in honor of founder and resident John Clark, brother-in-law of politician James Lusk Alcorn, whose plantation home is nearby.



In the early 20th century, Clarksdale was known as the "Golden Buckle in the Cotton Belt" and was home to a mixture of Lebanese, Italian, Chinese and Jewish immigrants along with African-Americans and white plantation owners.[2]

Clarksdale figured prominently in the regional agricultural landscape and became pre-eminent when the International Harvester Company perfected the development of the single row mechanical cotton picking machine at the nearby Hopson Plantation in 1946.[3] This technological advancement quickly revolutionized American agriculture and had far-reaching economic and social implications for the cotton industry worldwide and particularly for the Mississippi Delta.

Whereas previously the area's sprawling plantations were worked largely by an indentured African-American workforce, the rapid mechanization of cotton production made these underpaid and systematically exploited workers expendable. This change, concurrent with the return of many African American GIs from World War II accelerated what came to be known as The Great Migration to the north, the largest movement of Americans in U.S. history. The Illinois Central Railroad operated a large depot in Clarksdale which quickly became a primary departure point for many African-Americans in the area. This important rail hub provided an escape route away from an accelerating climate of racist hatred for which Coahoma County quickly became known as evidenced by violence against such well known local figures as musician Ike Turner and Civil Rights leader Dr. Aaron Henry.

The African American exodus from Mississippi was recounted with Clarksdale triangulated with Chicago and Washington D.C. in the award winning book "The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How it Changed America" by Nicholas Lemann. "The Promised Land" was later produced as a documentary film series by the History Channel narrated by award-winning actor and Morgan Freeman, who is also a co-owner of the local Ground Zero Blues Club.[2]


Clarksdale is located at 34°11′52″N 90°34′19″W / 34.19778°N 90.57194°W / 34.19778; -90.57194 (34.197888, -90.571941)[4], on the banks of the Sunflower River and in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, an alluvial flood plain in northwest Mississippi.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.9 square miles (35.9 km²), of which, 13.8 square miles (35.8 km²) of it is land and 0.07% is water.


As of the census[5] of 2000, there were 20,645 people, 7,233 households, and 5,070 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,491.8 people per square mile (575.9/km²). There were 7,757 housing units at an average density of 560.5/sq mi (216.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 68.52% African American, 29.95% White, 0.58% Asian, 0.11% Native American, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.22% from other races, and 0.60% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.65% of the population.

There were 7,233 households out of which 36.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.7% were married couples living together, 30.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.9% were non-families. 27.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.77 and the average family size was 3.38.

In the city, the population was spread out with 32.9% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 25.2% from 25 to 44, 19.3% from 45 to 64, and 12.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 81.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 73.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $22,188, and the median income for a family was $26,592. Males had a median income of $26,881 versus $19,918 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,611. About 29.7% of families and 36.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 46.1% of those under age 18 and 31.4% of those age 65 or over.



Public schools

The city of Clarksdale is served by the Clarksdale Municipal School District. The district has nine schools with a total enrollment of 3,600 students.

Private schools

The city is home to four private schools[6]

  • Lee Academy
  • St. George's Elementary School
  • Presbyterian Day School
  • St. Elizabeth's Elementary School

Music history

Clarksdale has been historically significant in the development of the blues, a form of music distinctively African American. The Mississippi Blues Trail, now being implemented, is dedicating markers for historic sites such as Clarksdale's Riverside Hotel where Bessie Smith died after her auto accident on Highway 61.[7] The Riverside Hotel is just one of many historical blues sites in Clarksdale.[8]

In the past fifteen years, the Clarksdale community at large has come to see its blues heritage as a viable economic resource worth exploiting and initial resistance on the part of affluent white business owners has given way to recognition of the African-American art form as a valuable cultural resource that they could control. Early supporters of the effort to preserve Clarksdale's musical legacy included the award-winning photographer and journalist Panny Mayfield, Living Blues magazine founder Jim O'Neal, and attorney Walter Thompson, father of sports journalist Wright Thompson. In 1995, Mt. Zion Memorial Fund founder Skip Henderson purchased the Illinois Central Railroad passenger depot to save it from planned demolition. With the help of local businessman Jon Levingston and the Delta Council, Henderson received a $1.279 million dollar grant from the federal government to restore the passenger depot, which was then transferred to ownership of Coahoma County, to become part of a tourism locale dubbed "blues alley". The popularity of the Delta Blues Museum, the growth of the Sunflower River Blues Festival and Juke Joint Festivals, and recognition of Clarksdale's blues legacy has continued.

Delta Blues Museum

Delta Blues Museum

In 1979 the Carnegie Public Library under the direction Library Director Sid Graves began a nascent display series which later became the nucleus of the Delta Blues Museum[9]. When the fledgling museum was accidentally discovered by Billy Gibbons of the rock band ZZ Top through contact with Howard Stovall Jr. the Delta Blues Museum became the subject of national attention as a pet project of the band and the Museum began to enjoy widespread recognition.

In 1995 the museum grew to include a large section of the newly renovated library building and remained under the control of the library Board. The Museum then spent most of 1996 in a converted retail storefront on Delta Avenue under the direction of a politically connected former Wisconsin native, the late Ron Gorsegner. In the late 1990s Coahoma County would provide funds to form a separate Museum Board of Directors, renovate the adjoining Illinois Central Railroad freight depot and thereby provide a permanent home for the Delta Blues Museum.

Mississippi Blues Trail marker

Clarksdale has received a historic marker as a site on the Mississippi Blues Trail by the Mississippi Blues Commission in recognition of its importance in the development of the blues in Mississippi. The marker is on Stovall Road at the cabin site of famed bluesman Muddy Waters. He lived there from 1915 until 1943 while he worked on the large Stovall cotton Plantation before moving to Chicago. A second Mississippi Blues Trail historic marker is placed at the Riverside Hotel that provided lodging for black entertainers passing through, and was the site of the death of Bessie Smith in 1937 due to injuries from a car accident on Highway 61.[10][11] In August 2009 a marker devoted to Clarksdale native Sam Cooke was unveiled, just in front of the New Roxy Theatre.

Notable residents

See also


  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  2. ^ a b Drash, Wayne (September 4, 2009). "Barbecue, Bible and Abe chase racism from Mississippi rib joint". Retrieved 2009-09-05.  
  3. ^ Ratliff, Bob. "Modern Cotton Production Has Deep Delta Roots" (PDF). Mississippi Landmarks magazine. Division of Agriculture, Forestry, and Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University. "Testing of the IH machines and machines produced by the Rust Cotton Picker Company in Memphis took place at the Delta Branch throughout the 1930s, and IH sent engineers and prototype pickers to the Hopson Plantation."  
  4. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  5. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  6. ^ "Clarksdale Directory: School Directory". Clarksdale Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 2009-09-05.  
  7. ^ "Blues trail". Retrieved 2007-02-09.  
  8. ^ "Clarkesdale Blues". Retrieved 2007-02-09.  
  9. ^ Robbert Palmer (23 April 1988). "Muddy Waters's Imprint on Mississippi". Retrieved 4 October 2009.  
  10. ^ Cloues, Kacey. "Great Souther Getaways - Mississippi". Retrieved 2008-05-31.  
  11. ^ "Mississippi Blues Commission - Blues Trail". Retrieved 2008-05-28.  

External links


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