History & Heritage

History & Heritage

Mississippi – the "Father of Waters" – is not merely a river or a name, nor is Mississippi's history merely the history of a state. It is the history of a nation. Those who have called Mississippi home, and the events that have taken place on its soil have shaped American, and even world, history. When the Mississippi Territory became the 20th state to join the union in 1817, it was comprised largely of the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations. With statehood came a greater influx of Europeans, largely English, Scottish and Irish seeking opportunity in what was then the frontier of a burgeoning nation.

Civil War

Yet less than 50 years after statehood, the country erupted in Civil War. Mississippi would find itself in a strategic location, leading U.S. President Abraham Lincoln to say that "Vicksburg is the key." For whoever controlled the port town of Vicksburg, Mississippi controlled the nation's major transportation artery. Mississippi was ravaged by war, with fighting occurring in virtually every corner and a swath of destruction crossing the entire state. The young capital city of Jackson was called Chimneyville, for chimneys were virtually all that remained following Union General Sherman's scorched earth tactics. At war's end, the state would begin the long, difficult process of physical, psychological and economic recovery. The union would reunite, and African-American Mississippians who had known only the bonds of slavery would find themselves free.

Civil Rights Heritage

The state slowly and painfully rebuilt. Its economy grew in the mid-twentieth century from nearly solely agrarian to one that incorporated an ever-growing industrial sector. Paralleling this economic change was a major societal change. Though the Civil War had brought emancipation for African-American citizens of the state, it had not brought many rights of citizenship. Again, Mississippi would find itself at the forefront of one of the most pivotal periods of American history. The tragic murder of Emmett Till in 1955 is widely considered the catalyst for the modern Civil Rights movement. Only months before Till's death, Reverend George Lee of Belzoni was assassinated after registering to vote. Other events in Mississippi, from the murder of Medgar Evers in 1963 to the murder of the three Civil Rights workers in Neshoba County the following year, were significant in keeping the Civil Rights movement strong.

Mississippi Freedom Trail

Amzie Moore Home

614 Chrisman Avenue
Cleveland, MS

This site served as an important meeting place for Civil Rights activities, including discussion of plans for Freedom Summer.

Broad Street Park

Broad Street and Avenue M
Greenwood, MS

Here in Greenwood, Civil Rights activist Stokely Carmichael used the phrase "Black Power."

Bryant's Grocery

County Road 518
Money, MS

The first marker on the Mississippi Freedom Trail was placed outside Bryant's Grocery in Money, Mississippi on May 18, 2011. This was the location that 14-year-old Emmett Till whistled at a white woman in 1955 and was murdered days later.

C.C. Bryant's Home

1521 C.C. Bryant Drive
McComb, MS

In southwest Mississippi, C.C. Bryant helped establish one of the earliest NAACP branches and served as vice president of the NAACP state branch under Medgar Evers.

Dr T.R.M. Howard Home

203 Edwards Avenue
Mound Bayou, MS

T.R.M. Howard was a Civil Rights leader, fraternal organization leader, entrepreneur, and surgeon. He was one of the mentors to Medgar Evers, Charles Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Amzie Moore, Aaron Henry, and Jesse Jackson.

Fannie Lou Hamer Gravesite

Elisha and Everett Langdon Street
Ruleville, MS

This park contains the gravesite of Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.

George Lee

603 Church Street
Belzoni, MS

An early voting rights advocate, Rev. George Lee was assassinated in 1955.

Greyhound Bus Station

239 North Lamar Street
Jackson, MS

On May 28, 1961, a Greyhound bus with nine Freedom Riders aboard arrived here, the third group of Riders into Jackson. The first two came on Trailways' buses May 24. That summer 329 people were arrested in Jackson for integrating public transportation facilities.

Jackson State Tragedy

1400 John R. Lynch Street
Jackson, MS

Tragedy struck Jackson State College on May 15, 1970, when Jackson police and Mississippi Highway Patrol officers suppressed student unrest with intense gunfire. Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green were killed and many injured when bullets riddled Alexander Hall and peppered nearby areas.

Medgar Evers' Home

2332 Margaret Walker Alexander Drive
Jackson, MS

Evers was the first field secretary for the NAACP in Jackson at the time of his death, June 12, 1963. The small house and site of his assassination, and the neighborhood of similar houses that surround it, make palpable the very simple longings for freedom and opportunity that drove the Civil Rights Movement. As a museum and house in a historic district, the renovated structure informs those who visit of the many sacrifices that took place in Jackson and in Mississippi, and presents a modern link in the succession of Mississippi landmarks that communicate the history of the state.

Mississippi State Penitentiary

County Road 518 at County Road 24
Parchman, MS

Freedom Riders were incarcerated here in 1961.

Tougaloo College

500 West County Line Road
Jackson, MS

Nine students, who would come to be known as The Tougaloo 9, fought segregation by using the whites-only public library. Tougaloo was also the site of numerous gatherings during the Civil Rights Movement.

University of Mississippi (James Meredith)

University of Mississippi Campus
Oxford, MS

James Meredith enrolled as the first black man at the University of Mississippi, resulting in rioting on campus.

William Chapel

915 Byron Street
Ruleville, MS

Amzie Moore first escorted SNCC workers here in 1962, and Fannie Lou Hamer served as a Deaconess.

Woolworth's Sit-In

Capitol and Lamar Streets
Jackson, MS

A group of Civil Rights activists was attacked while attempting to integrate the lunch counter at Woolworth's in 1963

Future Markers

  • James Meredith – Hernando
  • Biloxi Beach
  • Mississippi State Capitol – Jackson
  • Municipal Library – Jackson
  • WLBT – Jackson
  • COFO Office – Jackson
  • Masonic Temple (M.W. Stringer Grand Lodge) – Jackson
  • Neshoba County Jail – Philadelphia
  • Unita Blackwell Home – Mayersville
  • Mule Train/Poor Peoples' March
  • Aaron Henry's Drug Store – Clarksdale
  • University of Southern Mississippi (Clyde Kennard) – Hattiesburg
  • Vernon Dahmer Home – Hattiesburg
  • Rust College – Holly Springs
  • Mrs. Winson Hudson Home – Carthage
  • Madison County Courthouse (Canton Movement) – Canton

Modern-Day Mississippi

Mississippi's history has therefore shaped America's history. Today, Mississippi is a fascinating patchwork. In it can be found the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis at Beauvoir on the Gulf Coast and the library of Union General and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant at Mississippi State University in Starkville. In east Mississippi, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians preserves and demonstrates many of its traditions. Throughout the state, countless sites tell the stories of the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. All are part of the people, places and events that tell the story of Mississippi and the story of America.

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