The riot occurred after two African-American prisoners were transferred out of the city jail to protect them from a lynch mob.
Many white citizens then rioted in black neighborhoods, destroying property and committing murder, Haley said. The two black prisoners had been falsely accused of raping a white woman, Haley said.
“People fought, bled and died for our right to be here,” Haley said.
Haley encouraged local residents to get involved with the NAACP and to attend city council meetings and school board meetings to have their voices heard.
“Everyone can serve and the time for serving is right now,” Haley said. “You have to begin to make history.”
Monday’s ceremony also featured remarks by Mt. Vernon Mayor Mary Jane Chesley and Jefferson County Board Chairman Robert White, as well as musical performances and a Black History presentation by Carleka Spann.
In addition, NAACP Freedom Awards were presented to Sonja Ligon, Rae Cummins, Kischa Jackson and Ashley Self.
An MLK Scholarship was also presented to Sierra Tate.