What is missing from the piece of a long record of historically black college and university (HBCU) credentials is the hidden history of Saints Industrial and Literary School. The campus remains still stands present in Lexington, Mississippi. It all started when the founder and first president, Dr. Arenia Cornelia Mallory, was invited by Charles Harrison Mason to serve as a music teacher at a local religious school for black students in Lexington, Mississippi.

Pictured above is Dr. Mallory’s “Jubilee Harmonizers”. She is seen in the center of the photo; eventually male voices were added to the group.

Later, she organized five singers and toured them to raise money for the school. She then developed a larger school chorus, named the Jubilee Harmonizers, who traveled and became nationally famous. They eventually performed at the White House for President Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt. Their touring helped to raise funding for what become known as the Saints Industrial and Literary School. The institution was a secondary private school for students in grades 1-12. It was later renamed and called Saints Academy. She educated an estimated of 20,000 students through Saints.

The affiliation of the school is with the Pentecostal Church of God in Christ (COGIC); Mallory served as its president from 1926 until 1977. In 1975, she was recognized as the only black college woman president. The campus was developed to have classrooms and dormitories, and a junior college department was produced before 1963. Mallory’s intention was to established high standards for Christian behavior and education. Through the decades, she led the students by integrating public schools and the broadening role for blacks after the passage of civil rights legislation. Mallory helped developed many African-American leaders through her mission.

Historic marker placed outside the campus of the historic Saints Industrial and Literary School in Lexington, Mississippi. Photo courtesy of the Communications and Marketing team at the HBCU Campaign Fund.

The institution was once notable for its inclusion in a landmark federal case, Coffey v. State Educational Finance Commission (1969) that challenged the state of Mississippi’s tuition grant program for segregated schools. Saint was the only private school to receive state aid for black children. Grants covered 80% of Saint’s tuition cost in the 1967-1968 school year.

Mallory was a charter member of the NCNW, which national leader and school president Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune founded. Because of their relationship, Mallory had open access to the White House. She extended the opportunity to present her work with Saints Industrial School to President Eleanor Roosevelt and the first lady, singing for them. In 1963, she was appointed to serve in President John F. Kennedy’s administration.

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune and Dr. Arenia C. Mallory.

Through her status with Saints Industrial and with her civic activities, Mallory promoted her advocacy for the Black and poor sharecroppers in Mississippi and for the Civil Rights Movement. In 1968, she was the first woman and person of color to be elected to the Holmes County Board of Education. In 1974, she was elected to a second term.

Mallory was an active member of the Church of God in Christ Women’s Department, where she was a church leader. She cemented her significance to the Women’s Department and made the outreaches that were crucial for the next generations. Mallory’s friendship with Mary Bethune brought in new ideas to the Women’s Department. She served from 1952-1955 on the board of directors of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, a pro-self help civil rights organization led by T. R. M. Howard from Mound Bayou, Mississippi.

Mallory’s leadership and work were featured in the May 1963 issue of The Crisis Magazine with the front page article written about her entitled “Mississippi Mud”. The Crisis article lauded her citing “Florida has its Mary McLeod Bethune, North Carolina has its Charlotte Hawkins Brown, and Mississippi has its Arenia Corenia Mallory, who, out of Mississippi mud has made it possible for children born, or yet unborn, to have a better heritage then chopping cotton.”

Anne Bailey Hall, Saints Industrial and Literary School – College Women’s Dormitory.

After Mallory’s retirement and death, followers tried to keep the school going, but the Delta’s population had declined as many families moved north or to larger cities. They were unable to succeed, and the school closed in 2006. In 2018, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) invested in reopening the Saints campus. The campus was reopened, and its mission to train saints who will impact the world. Over $500,000 in renovations have been completed on the campus, and it is now a state-of-the-art facility where saints of all ages are welcome.

Saints’ history falls back as late as 1926 and typically qualifies for the designation of HBCU status. However, the institution’s accreditation is questionable as to why it may be jeopardized from receiving such status. HBCUs were established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary of Education to be reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.



Fannie Lou Hamer

ITTA BENA, MS – After months of intense planning, a group from Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) has received approval to proceed with a project that will erect the first historical marker commemorating the historic stance taken by Fannie Lou Hamer to ensure voting rights for all Americans, according to the University.

MVSU Associate Professor of History Dr. C. Sade Turnipseed and students in her Public History course, led by Nigerian native Brian Diyaolu, have been given the greenlight by the Sunflower County Board of Supervisors to place a maker at the Sunflower County Courthouse in Indianola to commemorate Hamer’s legacy.

The historic marker will be unveiled on the Sunflower County Courthouse steps in March during the 2020 Women’s History Month celebration. The date and time will be announced soon.

“At MVSU, we pride ourselves by putting students first, and Dr. Turnipseed is truly a faculty member who does just that. I congratulate her and the students on this outstanding accomplishments,” said Dr. Jerryl Briggs, MVSU President. “Understanding the significance of our nation’s history is extremely important because through this knowledge we can build stronger communities today.”

Civil rights activist Charles McLaurin of Indianola accompanied the MVSU team to present a case to the Sunflower County Board detailing Hamer’s significance to Sunflower County and the implementation of the historical marker.

McLaurin, along with several other members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), escorted Hamer in 1962 as she made her first attempt to register to vote at the Sunflower County Courthouse.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Voting Rights Act due in large measure to Hamer’s advocacy.

Dr. C. Sade Turnipseed

Turnipseed said she’s appealing to the public to support this worthy cause and commemorate this true American heroine.

“My students have a set goal of $5,500 for the completion of this historical marker project,” said Turnipseed. “We hope to achieve this goal by January 30, 2020. Thus far, we have received $3,000 commitment from the Sunflower County Board of Supervisors. We’re giving a special appeal to local churches, social groups, educational institutions and individuals to get involved by making a contribution for the remaining balance.”

The complete list of donors will be listed and acknowledged during the unveiling ceremony, Turnipseed said.

According to Turnipseed, the marker will also ensure that visitors of the courthouse are aware of its historical significance for years to come.

“At MVSU we sincerely care about historical figures in American history. We want to make sure these cherished and important individuals are remembered in the sands of time,” she said. “Mrs. Hamer falls in this category of people, so we make it our sacred duty to honor her contributions, so that she is not forgotten.”

Turnipseed said the project was also a great opportunity for MVSU students to learn about Hamer’s significance to American history. 

“MVSU is committed to positively impacting the quality of life and creating extraordinary educational opportunities for the Mississippi Delta and beyond,” she said. “This endeavor allows MVSU students to reach new heights by demonstrating their appreciation for the contributions that Mrs. Hamer and her contemporaries made to America.”

Hamer was born in Montgomery County, MS on Oct. 6, 1917—the 20th and final child of Lou Ella and James Townsend. 

Her parents were sharecroppers, and Hamer began working in the fields picking cotton when she was only 6-years-old. She learned to read and write and became one of the most important, passionate, and powerful voices of the civil and voting rights movements and a leader in the efforts for greater economic opportunities for African Americans, particularly for women. 

Hamer was internationally acclaimed for her uncompromising fight to combat white supremacy, whilst being subjected to attacks and assassination attempts. Her work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and her testimony at the 1964 National Democratic Party’s Convention on behalf of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) helped change the nation’s perspective on the true meaning of democracy in America. 

For more information, or to support the Fannie Lou Hamer historical marker project, contact Turnipseed at (662) 347-8198 or cassie.turnipseed@mvsu.edu.


About Mississippi Valley State University

Mississippi Valley State University, as a Carnegie Classified Master’s University, provides comprehensive undergraduate and graduate programs in education, the arts and sciences, and professional studies. The University is driven by its commitment to excellence in teaching, learning, service, and research–a commitment resulting in a learner-centered environment that prepares critical thinkers, exceptional communicators, and service-oriented, engaged, and productive citizens. MVSU is fundamentally committed to positively impacting the quality of life and creating extraordinary educational opportunities for the Mississippi Delta and beyond. For more information, visit www.mvsu.edu.