There’s no shortage of sites in the U.S. where visitors can relive pivotal moments in Civil Rights history. With the arrival of Black History Month, Americans are reflecting on the people and places that have played such important roles in the nation’s journey toward civil justice.
From the time of the Civil War, where decisive battles were fought in cities like Vicksburg and Corinth, the state of Mississippi has held a prominent place in the unfolding of Black history in America.
Moving through the 20th century, the Magnolia State witnessed the unprecedented Great Migration of African Americans out of the South and into other areas of the country; participated in the evolution of Black culture and the seminal music genres to which it gave birth; and provided the stage for several incidents that incited or proved crucial to the 1950s-60s Civil Rights movement.
Today, there are numerous well-preserved historic sites, museums and cultural initiatives throughout the state of Mississippi dedicated to honoring the individuals who dedicated themselves to fighting for social equality. If you’re keen this February to go out and learn more about the important figures and events that have shaped Black American history, here are some of the key spots where Mississippi commemorates its contributions.
Mississippi Freedom Trail
Forming a portion of the United States Civil Rights Trail, the Mississippi Freedom Trail is comprised of 25 distinct sites that offer visitors an up-close perspective and a deeper understanding of the people, places and events that challenged the status quo and changed history.
A good starting point is the city of Jackson, where you’ll find markers at the home of Medgar Evers, the Greyhound Bus Station, Mississippi State Capitol, Council of Federated Organizations Civil Rights Education Center, Tougaloo College, Jackson State University, the site of the 1963 sit-in at Woolworth’s and others.
Trail highlights include:
Bryant’s Grocery (Money) – This is the location where 14-year-old Emmett Till allegedly flirted with white shopkeeper Carolyn Bryant, which lead to his brutal torture and murder by her husband and his half-brother, who were acquitted of the crime, but later sold their confession to a magazine. The incident garnered national attention and is widely credited with stirring the Civil Rights movement.
Medgar Evers Home Museum (Jackson) – This is the historic home where Medgar Evers, an outspoken activist for social justice and proponent of voter registration, lived until he was brutally assassinated in his own driveway on June 12, 1963.
Hattiesburg 1964 Freedom Summer Trail (Hattiesburg) – This trail spotlights and available audio tour commemorate the largest ‘Freedom Summer’ voter registration drive in the state. It helped increase national awareness, with Americans watching the happenings on nightly news or reading reports in daily newspapers.
Mississippi Civil Rights Museum (Jackson) – Visitors to the museum gain greater understanding and insight into the Mississippi Civil Rights movement, and the strength and sacrifices of the Mississippians who fought for equality. It features eight interactive exhibits that allow visitors to witness stories of systemic oppression and the resistance efforts that ultimately transformed the state and nation.
The Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum (Holly Springs) – Located within the Spires Bolling House, where the nationally and internationally recognized civil rights and women’s rights activist was born, this museum contains a collection of Wells-Barnett’s personal belongings, awards and memorabilia; along with various artifacts of African-American historic value.
The Mississippi Blues Trail – This expansive trail, boasting 200 markers, represents an “unforgettable journey into the land that spawned the single most important root source of modern popular music,” according to its website. The trail takes visitors on an immersive exploration of blues history via markers and locations that influenced the men and women who shaped the genre, as well as museums dedicated to the art form. Highlights include:
— B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center (Indianola)
— Gateway to the Blues Museum and Visitors Center (Tunica Resorts)
— Delta Blues Museum (Clarksdale)
— Robert Johnson Heritage and Blues Museum (Crystal Springs)
— GRAMMY Museum Mississippi (Cleveland)
For more information, visit visitmississippi.org.
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