230 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI more lagged behind other states. Diminishing economic opportunities, especially in agricultural work, led to out- migration among many African American Mississippians. And for returning African American veterans, especially those who saw combat overseas, the return contributed to segregation and disfranchisement at home prompted demands for action. On December 2, 1946, nearly 200 African Americans from across Mississippi, almost all of them veterans, gathered at the federal building courtroom in Jackson to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee about obstacles they faced in registering to vote. Over the course of four days, the Senate Committee heard testimony after testimony of how African American Mississippians had been denied the vote in Democratic primaries in the state. One of the most profound testimonies came from Rankin County resident and World War II veteran Etoy Fletcher. Fletcher shared with the committee that upon his attempt to register to vote, the county registrar made it clear African Americans were not allowed to vote in Rankin County. After being told to leave, Fletcher exited the building. As he sat waiting for a bus, a group of white men abducted him, took him to a wooded area, stripped him, and flogged him with a cable wire. The Senate Committee hearings in Jackson spurred African American organization in the area. In 1947, the Mississippi Progressive Voters League organized and located its headquarters in Jackson. The purpose of the Progressive Voters’ League “was civic education and participation through motivation and literacy by potentially qualified black voters.” In 1948, The Mississippi Association of Teachers in Colored Schools (MATCS) supported Gladys Noel Bates, an African American Jackson teacher, in a lawsuit seeking to raise the salaries of African American teachers to those of whites across the state. A federal court struck down the lawsuit in 1950, but it was clear that African American activism in the state was growing. In 1954, upon the reactivation of NAACP chapters throughout Mississippi, the national organization appointed its first field secretary to Mississippi. Medgar Evers, a native of Decatur, moved his family to Jackson and began working to initiate grassroots challenges to segregation, discrimination in employment practices, and disfranchisement. MISSISSIPPI BOOK FESTIVAL The annual Mississippi Book Festival is held on the grounds of the Mississippi Capitol to celebrate Mississippi’s literary history and future. Authors, readers, and publishers all come together for a day of celebrating Mississippi books. The gathering, broadcast live on C-SPAN, is open to the public with music, kids’ activities, and food vendors entertaining attendees. The festival started in 2015, attracting an ever-increasing crowd to the Jackson area. Mississippi’s annual “Literary Lawn Party” at the capitol includes panels of writers, publishers, booksellers, and others. The Mississippi Book Festival is a family-friendly event where all are welcome to enjoy food and activities while celebrating Mississippi’s rich literary history. In 1947, the Mississippi Progressive Voters League organized and located its headquarters in Jackson. PHOTOS COURTESY OF MISSISSIPPI BOOK FESTIVAL