Amidst the rolling hills in northeast Mississippi lies the quaint college town and cultural hub of Oxford.
A hotspot for foodies and lovers of music and literature, Oxford also possesses a rich historical heritage. Incorporated in 1837, the town served as the inspiration for Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County and since 1848 has housed the state’s oldest public university – a pivotal location during the Civil Rights era. With a breathtaking university campus and stately antebellum homes surrounding a charming town square, history buffs are inclined to explore.
What better time to take a stroll in Oxford and take in a history lesson or two than during the Bicentennial Concert Celebration June 24. Check out the itinerary below for inspiration.
1. Stroll Around the Historic Oxford Square
Since Oxford's incorporation in 1837, the Square remains the center of culture and the town's economic hub. Throughout the years, the Square has been home to a variety of boutiques, bookstores, art galleries and restaurants. A former film theater, the Lyric serves as a concert venue featuring some of today’s biggest acts and was once a livery stable for William Faulkner’s family prior to becoming an entertainment venue.
2. Venture to Rowan Oak and Faulkner’s Grave
Renowned author William Faulkner resided in Oxford for the majority of his life, drawing inspiration from the town’s local people and places for his fictional world of Yoknapatawpha County. Rowan Oak, his antebellum mansion and the accompanying grounds, is open for tours year-round. Just across the Square, Faulkner is interned at St. Peter’s Cemetery. It’s best to visit after dusk with a bottle of whiskey, a common gift of remembrance often left at the grave site.
3. Take a History Lesson at the University of Mississippi
The state’s first public university opened its doors to eighty students in 1848 and has since become a major landmark of Oxford. With a walk around campus, visitors will encounter stately academic buildings with a range of architectural designs including the Greek Revival Lyceum, Victorian Romanesque Ventress Hall and the Georgian-inspired Croft Institute. Barnard Observatory is one of the oldest buildings on campus and the first regional studies center in the country. It houses the Gammill Gallery, an exhibit hall devoted to documentary photography of the American South.
4. Reflect on the Civil Rights Era
Behind the Lyceum is a monument of James Meredith, the university’s first African American student.
5. Get the Oxford Blues
Discover the region’s blues history with a visit to the world’s most extensive collection of blues recordings and related material at the university’s J.D. Williams Library. The Mississippi blues archive is comprised of three major collections and open to the public. The B.B. King Collection alone includes more than 7,000 recordings ranging from classic blues to big-band jazz, films, photographs and other promotional materials.