Focused on Mississippi: Oakes African American Culture

YAZOO CITY, Miss. (WJTV) – The Oakes African-American culture is located in Yazoo City. The house is sometimes called Oakes Mansion, and it is a grand house.

The house’s history begins a decade before the Civil War when John Oakes, a free black man from South Carolina, bought the freedom of his wife, Mary, and two children, and they all moved to Yazoo City. . Oakes then purchased land on which stood a small house for his new family. Later, his son, Augustus Oakes, began to modify the house.

“He added and added until he got what you see now; Oakes House,” said Oakes House board member Margaret Harris.

Augustus Oakes took a keen interest in education. He was principal of two schools before establishing a private academy in Yazoo City for African American children. Around 1900, he changed careers and went into construction and opened a lumber yard. He became a very successful businessman.

“It kind of goes to show that no matter how humble your beginnings, if you work hard you can accomplish anything,” said Joffre Washington of the Yazoo County Fair and Civil League.

A devastating fire destroyed much of downtown Yazoo City and part of the residential area in 1904. Much of the material needed to rebuild Yazoo City was purchased from Gus Oakes’ lumber yard. When Yazoo City offered bonds for sale to build a school for African American children, he bought all the bonds to ensure the school would be a reality.

The Oakes House was donated to the Yazoo County Fair and Civic League in 1989. For years it was used as a visitor’s house and cultural center. The house is closed again for a new round of restoration. The Yazoo County Fairgrounds and the Civic League raise funds to reopen the Oakes House.

“It means a lot, and we can’t wait for it to come back to life, so we can start hosting activities here like we’ve done in the past,” said Juanita Lear, Yazoo County Fair Chair. and the Civil League.

If you or your organization would like to help bring Oakes House back to life, contact the Yazoo County Fairgrounds and Civil League at (662) 746-7984.

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