Train station in Durant
Location of Durant, Mississippi
|o Mayor||Dr. Henry Robinson Jr.|
|o Total||2.26 sq mi (5.86 km2)|
|o Land||2.24 sq mi (5.80 km2)|
|o Water||0.02 sq mi (0.06 km2)|
|Elevation||259 ft (79 m)|
| o Estimate |
|o Density||1,055.80/sq mi (407.69/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (Central (CST))|
|o Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||0669521|
Durant is a city near the central eastern border of Holmes County, Mississippi, United States. It was founded in 1858 as a station on the Mississippi Central Railroad, later part of the Illinois Central. Durant was named for Louis Durant, a Choctaw chief who had lived on a bluff just across the nearby Big Black River before the United States undertook Indian Removal in the 1830s.
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Before the Civil War, this was known as the "dark corner of the county." Cotton plantations were developed along the waterfronts to take advantage of the fertile soil. They were dependent on the labor of numerous black slaves, and the county population was majority black and enslaved.
About 1935 Hazel Brannon Smith, a recent college graduate from Gadsden, Alabama, bought the local weekly newspaper, the Durant News, which had been failing. Over the next several years, she turned it around, and served as its editor and publisher into the early 1970s. In the 1950s she also acquired the Lexington Advertiser, and later two other small papers. She was among the first journalists to cover the African-American community for its positive contributions, noting in 1943 that a local civic group had donated money to the Red Cross. Later she became well known for her editorial writing about the civil rights movement; Holmes County had many activists involved in education and voter registration. In 1964 Smith was the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing.
The area is still largely rural and agricultural, but industrial-scale farming and mechanization reduced the need for labor decades ago. Many residents left, but among those who stayed, there is considerable unemployment. The population has declined although state and local government have sought redevelopment. The historic brick train depot (see photo above) is to be restored for new uses and is being highlighted as part of the area's heritage tourism.
Since the late 20th century, missionary nurses from orders outside the state are among the individuals working on behalf of poor city and county residents. Local and state citizens were shocked on August 25, 2016 when two 68-year-old nuns were found stabbed to death at their home on Castalian Springs Road: Sister Paula Merrill was a nurse practitioner with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Kentucky, and Sister Margaret Held was a nurse practitioner with the School Sisters of St Francis in Milwaukee. Rodney Earl Sanders, from nearby Kosciusko, was charged with the murders. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI) participated in investigation of the case.
Durant is in eastern Holmes County on the west side of the valley of the Big Black River. U.S. Route 51 passes through the center of town, leading north 19 miles (31 km) to Vaiden and south 8 miles (13 km) to Goodman. Mississippi Highway 12 intersects US 51 in Durant; it leads east 17 miles (27 km) to Kosciusko and west 13 miles (21 km) to Lexington. Interstate 55 has an interchange with Highway 12 3 miles (5 km) west of Durant; I-55 leads south 61 miles (98 km) to Jackson, the state capital, and north 148 miles (238 km) to Memphis.
As of the census of 2010, there were 2,673 people, 1,171 households, and 978 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,316.4 people per square mile (507.6/km²). There were 1,209 housing units at an average density of 542.8 per square mile (209.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 13.80% White, 85.29% African American, 0.22% Native American, 0% Asian, 0.29% from other races, and 0.33% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.26% of the population.
There were 1,171 households out of which 33.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.9% were married couples living together, 30.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.7% were non-families. 28.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68 and the average family size was 3.32.
In the city, the population was spread out with 31.6% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 20 to 24, 30.1% from 25 to 49, 15.7% from 50 to 64, and 13.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. There were 1,230 males and 1,443 females.
The median income for a household in the city was $19,659, and the median income for a family was $25,065. Males had a median income of $26,500 versus $20,200 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,210. About 27.9% of families and 35.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 44.1% of those under age 18 and 26.7% of those age 65 or over.
The Durant City limits is served by the Holmes County Consolidated School District, which operates Durant Elementary School (K-8) in Durant and Holmes County Central High School near Lexington in the center of the county.
Previously Durant city was served by the Durant Public School District, which had the K-12 Durant School as its only school. Areas outside the city limits were served by the county district. In 2016 Governor of Mississippi Phil Bryant signed a bill that required the Durant district to consolidate with the Holmes County district.
As a result of the consolidation, a new school board for Holmes County was assembled by 2018. Effective July 1, 2018 the two districts were combined as the Holmes County Consolidated School District.
In March 2018 the Holmes County school board voted to move high school students in Durant to Holmes County Central, an action opposed by area residents.