African American Heritage
CLARKSDALE TO MOUND BAYOU–24 miles
MOUND BAYOU TO CLEVELAND–10 miles
CLEVELAND TO GREENVILLE–36 miles
Start your adventure in Clarksdale, the former home of blues greats W.C. Handy, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, and Howlin’ Wolf. Head for the Clarksdale Station and Blues Alley, the renovated railroad depot that houses the Delta Blues Museum, to bone up on the blues, take a look at Muddy Waters’ modest cabin and purchase a blues CD. Browse the shops along Delta Avenue and take a stroll down Issaquena and Sunflower Avenues, home to many historic blues sites. Continue along Highway 61 South to Mound Bayou, the oldest African American town in the United States and the location of a Mississippi Freedom Trail marker. The Mississippi Freedom Trail is a virtual tour that commemorates the state’s Civil Rights heritage and the people and places that played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement. A driving tour and brochure are available to explore Mound Bayou’s rich history as a center of African American social life following the Civil War. Pick up a one of a kind collectible from Peter’s Pottery, operated by the talented Wood brothers. Stop in Cleveland for shopping at the Historic Cotton Row District, then take a detour to Dockery Farms, the plantation where the first blues tunes may have been played. Continue south to Greenville for dinner, followed by an evening in the blues clubs along Walnut Street or casino gaming along the waterfront.
Go to Jackson and begin at the Old Capitol State Historical Museum, featuring exhibits related to slavery, the Civil War, and civil rights. Next stop—the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center celebrating African American history, heritage and art in the first public school for African American children in Jackson. Enjoy lunch in the Farish Street Historic District, once a center of African American business and entertainment. Call ahead to reserve a tour of the inspiring Medgar Evers Home, the site of the Civil Rights leader’s assassination in 1963. Visit the Medgar Evers Library, where a life-sized, bronze statue of Evers is the centerpiece. Wrap up the day with a tour of the impressive Tougaloo College Art Collection, which contains more than 1,000 pieces. Mississippi Freedom Trail markers throughout Jackson commemorate Evers legacy, Tougaloo’s pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement and other sites associated with the movement. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum shares the stories of a Mississippi movement that changed the world. https://mcrm.mdah.ms.gov/
GREENVILLE TO JACKSON–117 miles
JACKSON TO PORT GIBSON–50 miles
PORT GIBSON TO LORMAN–10 miles
LORMAN TO NATCHEZ–30 miles
Head south on the Natchez Trace Parkway to Port Gibson and the Cultural Crossroads, a workshop and gallery for award-winning quilters. Then travel to the Matt Ross Administrative Building on Main Street for the civil rights photo exhibit, “No Easy Journey.” Alcorn State University, the nation’s first land grant college for African Americans, is in nearby Lorman and home to several antebellum structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A commemorative statue of alum and Civil Rights icon Medgar Evers has been erected on the campus. Visit the Old Country Store in Lorman to partake of Mr. D’s Heavenly Fried Chicken. Continue to Natchez, the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River, and a city rich in African American history. Natchez is home to more than 500 antebellum mansions, churches and public buildings, many designed and built by slave artisans and craftsmen. Other stops include: Forks of the Road, site of one of the antebellum south’s two largest slave markets; the Natchez National Historical Park and the historic homes Melrose and the William Johnson House; and the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture. Browse the treasures at the Angelety House and Mostly African Market, many of which are imported from Africa. Enjoy an evening at Natchez Under the Hill and its shops, restaurants and casino gaming.
Leave Natchez for Hattiesburg, home of Osceola McCarty, who gave her life savings to establish a scholarship fund for minority students attending the University of Southern Mississippi. Drive through the Mobile Street Historic District downtown, a cultural resource of Hattiesburg’s African American heritage, developed into a major business district between 1895 and 1910. From Hattiesburg, travel to Meridian to tour Con Sheehan Block, built on Main Street. In 1870, it was a hub for dentists, shop owners, doctors, pharmacists and other businesses owned and operated by African Americans. Visit Wechsler School, built in 1884, as the first brick public school building for African Americans in Mississippi. Tour the E.F. Young Jr., Manufacturing Company, the oldest African American-owned manufacturing company in the U.S. Drive to Okatibbee Cemetery and the grave site memorial to Meridianite James Chaney, a somber reminder of the sacrifices made during Freedom Summer 1964. Overnight in Meridian.
NATCHEZ TO HATTIESBURG–145 miles
HATTIESBURG TO MERIDIAN–91 miles
MERIDIAN TO COLUMBUS–119 miles
Drive north to Columbus and visit “Catfish Alley,” a central meeting and business district for the Columbus African American community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tour Union Academy, established in 1877 as the first free African American school in Columbus. After lunch visit Missionary Union Baptist Church, built in 1833- it’s the oldest African American church in northeast Mississippi. See the Bridge Street Bridge, designed by Horace King, an African American bridge builder, and completed in 1844. Have dinner and overnight in Columbus.
Travel to Kosciusko and drive by the building where Oprah Winfrey stood before her first audience at the Buffalo Community Center and recited her Easter speech. Then visit Oprah’s original home site. Depart for Oxford to visit the Center for the Study of Southern Culture on the campus of the University of Mississippi. There you will discover the music, literature, and folk life that are the very soul of Mississippi. The Blues Archive includes B.B. King’s personal collection of over 10,000 recordings. Explore the campus where James Meredith was the university’s first African American graduate in 1963. A Mississippi Freedom Trail marker and life-sized statue of Meredith commemorate his Civil Rights legacy.
COLUMBUS TO KOSCIUSKO–88 miles
KOSCIUSKO TO OXFORD–117 miles