Sumner is found in western Tallahatchie County, just down Highway 49 from Clarksdale on the way to Greenwood. Sumner was established around 1872 in a deep forest. By 1885, there was a post office. Sumner was incorporated in 1900 and it was named after its founder and first mayor, Joseph Burton Sumner. In 1902, because of flooding by the Tallahatchie River, the county was divided into two districts. Charleston on the eastern side of the county was designated one county seat and Sumner was made the other. Unlike many Mississippi Delta towns, there is a square where the court house is. The original court house was built in 1902 and a new one replaced it after a fire in 1908.
Businesses like government offices and a bank are found around the square.
Like many Southern county seats, there is a Confederate statue monument in front of the court house.
Sumner became famous, or really infamous, in 1955 as the place where the Emmett Till murder trial took place. National attention was drawn to this tiny town after the two men who killed young Emmett Till were arrested and put on trial. Both men were acquitted of his murder. Later they admitted they had killed him, but nothing could be done because of double jeopardy. The outrage sparked by this incident made it one of the most important events of the Civil Rights Movement. An historical marker to Emmett Till stands on the other side of the court house.
In recent years, Sumner and Tallahatchie County have been trying to come to grips with what happened here in 1955 and how their role in it impacted American History. To tell that story, the Emmett Till Interpretive Center has opened up on the square and the court house has been remodeled to what it looked like that year when the nation turned to see how this tiny town would react to injustice. Tours are available and the Center is a good place to visit if you want to know more about this event.
As you ride around Sumner, you will see nice homes and welcoming churches.
Cassidy Bayou runs through the middle of town and its worth taking a stroll down the walk way on the side of the bridge.
Sumner continues to be a small town. It’s population in 2010 was only about 316. Like all My Delta towns though, there is a story to this place. There is a history to this place. It’s worth a visit. As you are going down Highway 49 and you notice the wooden sign with Sumner on it, put your blinker and turn off the road, visit awhile.