Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hollandale, Part Eight:

“Integration caused a deterioration in Hollandale,” said Mr. Sanders, a black man. “We integrated, but not really, and that was the beginning of the end.”

In 1969 the Hollandale Minority Foundation, run by Mr. Sanders’ father, T.R. Sanders, opened the catfish processing plant with a grant from the government. The stock holders of the plant were black.

“Once the plant opened money began to circulate a little bit,” said Mr. Sanders. “We employed, at it’s height, about 250 people.”

Much of the recent history is simply plants and businesses closing.

The cottonseed oil plant was closed in 1983. The trains stopped in 1984. The hospital closed in 1989. The catfish plant closed in 2002.

In 1988 a court case played an important role in the development of the town.

“The beginning of the end goes back to 1988,” said Mr. Burford. “In 1988 a group of citizens sued to have the town divided into voting wards. This meant that a town of, at that time roughly 4,500 people, was split into five wards. Instead of the whole town coming together to vote for the common good people started to get caught up in petty politics. After the town was divided into wards many of the whites left because there was no way they were going to be ruled by black people. That’s just how it was.”

Mr. Sanders pinpointed a different ending point. “The Civil Rights Movement,” said Mr. Sanders. “That was the beginning of the end. When Stokely Carmicheal and Martin Luther King came to the delta. See, until then, we had what we called our big social event every Saturday evening. Whites and blacks all came downtown to Main Street. From dusk ‘til ten P.M. At ten o’clock the mayor rang the bell and everyone went home. Once integration happened all the whites moved out. We never really integrated. That was the beginning of the end.”

“And then when the catfish plant closed that was the real end. That was it,” said Mr. Burford. “200 jobs, right there.”

The catfish plant closed in 2002, the same year that the Super Wal-Mart opened in Greenville. “The last stores on Main Street closed after that,” said Mr. Burford. “There is no more industry. Twenty years from now Hollandale won’t even exist...”

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