Gus Courts

American activist (1887–1969)

Gus Courts (May 2, 1887 – April 23, 1969) was an American grocery store proprietor and African-American civil rights leader. In 1953, Courts and Rev. George W. Lee founded the Humphreys County, Mississippi chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As he led a voting rights and registration drive in the 1950s, Courts was shot and wounded at his store and later testified to Congress about racial terror in Mississippi.

Quuotes about Courts

  • Another Belzoni activist would be attacked by White supremacists months later. Belzoni NAACP leader, entrepreneur, and grocer Gus Courts was warned after the murder of Lee that he would be "next on the list to go." Courts was distinguished from his peers by organizing a contingent. of Humphreys County Blacks to pay their poll taxes and register to vote in 1953. After being harassed by the Humphreys County Citizens' Council, Courts appealed to the state government for protection. Instead of receiving protection, Courts was confronted in his store by a local Citizens' Council member who possessed a copy of his letter appealing for protection. After the November 1955 elections, Courts was shot in his store. Friends took the wounded Courts two counties away to the hospital in Mound Bayou, due to concerns about the care Lee received in the Belzoni hospital after his assault. Courts recovered from the attack in Mound Bayou. Following advice from Medgar Evers, Courts decided to leave the state. Escorted by an armed Evers, Courts fled the Delta to Jackson. After stints in Texas and California, Courts and his family would eventually move to Chicago. An FBI investigation of the Courts shooting ended with no arrests. In Chicago, Courts was clearly a political exile of Mississippi apartheid. During a 1968 interview, Courts reflected, I had to leave my $15,000 a year grocery business, my trucking business and my home and everything—my wife and I—thousands of us Mississippians had to run away. We had to flee in the night. We are American refugees from the terror in the South all because we wanted to vote.

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