History & Heritage

Mississippi is steeped in history and heritage. The Natchez Trace Parkway, which runs 444 miles from Natchez to Nashville, is more than 8,000 years old. Originally “traced out” by buffalo, the road was then traveled by traders, missionaries, early settlers and Indians. Our Civil War history comes alive in Vicksburg, Port Gibson and Natchez. Stately antebellum homes celebrate the romance of a bygone era, while Civil War battlefields remind us of the more than 80,000 Mississippians who served as Confederate soldiers.


History & Heritage

In a sense, the history of Mississippi is the history of America. It begins in prehistoric times, when vast herds of buffalo trampled and “traced” out a route known as the Natchez Trace. This same path would later be traveled by Native Americans, traders, missionaries and early pioneers. Chickasaw and Choctaw, Scotch and Irish, slaves and settlers have all called Mississippi home. Mississippi grew up with our nation. 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 State came an influx of Europeans – largely English, Scottish and Irish – who sought opportunity in what was then the frontier of a rapidly growing country. The Magnolia State continued to leave its imprint on America, playing a pivotal role in the Civil War and later serving as the setting for some of the landmark events in the struggle for Civil Rights. Today, Mississippi is regarded as a unique and rich intersection of history, architecture, commerce, culture and the arts.


African-American History

African-American History

African-American history in Mississippi is older than the state itself. The earliest African-Americans were brought here as slaves before statehood in 1817.

Less than a half-century after Mississippi was granted statehood, the nation erupted in Civil War. The war brought emancipation, and the slow road to civil rights began. In 1870, Hiram Revels of Natchez became the first African-American to serve in the United States Senate — even though African-Americans had not yet gained the right to vote and continued to live in a segregated society. Years later, Mississippians such as Ida B. Wells, Medgar Evers and James Meredith would help lead the charge to a more equal society.

Other African-Americans hailing from Mississippi would make major contributions to American culture. William Grant Still of Woodville, a prolific and respected classical composer, became the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra and the first to have a symphonic composition performed by a major orchestra. Richard Wright would become one of the leading writers of his generation, and later William Raspberry and Natasha Trethewey would win Pulitzer Prizes. The imprint that these and other African-American Mississippians have made on American history and culture continues to impact and enrich our lives today.

Architecture

Architecture

From the Greek Revival classics of the nineteenth century to the work of Frank Gehry in the twenty-first, Mississippi’s architecture is a grand depiction of a remarkable evolution.

In Natchez, Vicksburg, Columbus, Aberdeen, Holly Springs and countless other communities throughout the state, the wealth of nineteenth century Mississippi is seen in the columned classics of the plantation era. Near West Point, architecture students from around the world continue to marvel at the construction of Waverley. The capital city of Jackson is home to the Governor’s Mansion, the second oldest continuously occupied executive residence in the country, as well as our awe-inspiring Old Capitol. Our state is dotted with definitive examples of periods and styles ranging from Queen Anne and Italianate to shotgun and Craftsman. Stellar specimens such as a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum designed by Frank Gehry round out Mississippi’s architectural heritage, which spans more than three centuries and embodies the finest of American architecture.

Cemeteries & Gravesites

Cemeteries & Gravesites

A cemetery connects us to our past quite like no other place, and Mississippi’s cemeteries have special significance. They are the final resting places of ordinary people who quietly lived their lives yet left a legacy; of people whose actions changed the course of history; and of those who left a lasting influence on global cultural heritage. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Eudora Welty was laid to rest in Greenwood Cemetery (established 1821) in her hometown of Jackson. The grave of Nobel winner William Faulkner can be found in Oxford’s St. Peter’s Cemetery and is easily identified by the whiskey bottles left behind by his fans. Visit the three gravesites that claim to contain Blues legend Robert Johnson, and see if you can identify where he is truly buried. Civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer was laid to rest in a park setting in her hometown of Ruleville. The gravesite of Rev. George Lee, widely considered the first martyr of the civil rights movement, can be found in the beautiful cemetery next to Green Grove Baptist Church in his hometown of Belzoni.

Throughout the state are the graves of thousands of soldiers who lost their lives in America’s bloodiest conflict. These Civil War graves can be found in virtually any 19th century cemetery and in the endless acres of national cemeteries at Corinth, Vicksburg and Natchez. They can be found at Jefferson Davis’s last home, Beauvoir, and at Brice’s Crossroads. They are in unexpected places, as in the graves of unknown Union soldiers found on a wooded knoll near Highway 41, just off of the Natchez Trace. Friendship Cemetery in Columbus gave rise to Memorial Day after the Civil War, when the ladies of Columbus laid flowers on the graves of soldiers both Confederate and Union. Biloxi National Cemetery is the final resting place of veterans from all American conflicts. Whether you seek the final resting place of a noted American, that of a soldier who gave his life for his country, that of everyday Mississippians, or simply tranquility, connect with your past and that of America’s in Mississippi.  

Civil Rights

Civil Rights

When Emmett Till was murdered in 1955, the people of Mississippi found themselves at the forefront of one of the most pivotal periods of American history. This tragic event is widely considered the igniting spark of the modern Civil Rights movement. While the death of Emmett Till made national headlines, it was not the only event to set the scene for this great struggle. 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 killing of the three Civil Rights workers in Neshoba County the following year, rallied those involved with the Civil Rights movement and brought more people to the cause. Half a century later, Mississippi is the embodiment of changing times. Today, Mississippi has more elected African-American officials than any other state in the country, as the civil rights movement continues as a strong element of political, social and daily life.

The Mississippi Freedom Trail

The dedication of markers commemorating the following people, places, and events of the Civil Rights movement is underway.

 

PLACED LOCATION                  TO BE PLACED LOCATION
Bryant’s Store/Emmett Till Money     James Meredith Hernando
Fannie Lou Hamer Gravesite Ruleville   Biloxi Beach Biloxi
Mississippi State Penitentiary Parchman   Mississippi State Capitol Jackson
Medgar Evers’s House  Jackson   Municipal Library Jackson
Greyhound Bus Station  Jackson   WLBT Jackson
Amzie Moore Home Cleveland   COFO Office  Jackson
Woolworth’s Sit-in Jackson   Masonic Temple (M. W. Stringer Grand Lodge) Jackson
Tougaloo College Jackson   Neshoba County Jail Philadelphia
Jackson State University (shootings) Jackson   Unita Blackwell Home Mayersville
Dr. T. R. M. Howard Home Mound Bayou   Mule Train/Poor Peoples’ March  
William Chapel Ruleville   University of Southern Mississippi (Clyde Kennard) Hattiesburg
George Lee’s Home Belzoni   Vernon Dahmer Home Hattiesburg
University of Mississippi (James Meredith) Oxford   Rust College Holly Springs
Broad Street Park Greenwood   Mrs. Winson Hudson Home Carthage
C. C. Bryant’s Home McComb   Madison County Courthouse (Canton Movement) Canton
Aaron Henry’s Drug Store Clarksdale      

Civil War

Civil War

Mississippi was a young state when the country erupted in Civil War, but its strategic location destined it to become a crucial part of that epic conflict. Abraham Lincoln would say that “Vicksburg is the key,” for whoever controlled this vital port town controlled the nation’s major transportation artery.

Mississippi was ravaged by war, with fighting occurring in virtually every corner of the state and a swath of destruction crossing the middle. The young capital city of Jackson was called “Chimneyville,” as 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.

Today, reminders of Mississippians who fought in and lived during this tragic period can be found throughout the state. Their memories and stories are preserved in the more than 1,000 stately and solemn monuments of Vicksburg National Military Park, the pristine battlefield and gently rolling hills of Brice’s Crossroads, the Corinth Contraband Camp, the last home of Jefferson Davis at Beauvoir, the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library at Mississippi State University and countless churches and gravesites.

Museums

Museums

B.B. King. American Automobiles. Catfish. Kermit the Frog. Jewish Culture. Walter Anderson. Nature. Sports. What do all of these have in common? You’ll find them all in the museums of Mississippi. Whether you’re looking for an afternoon of great family entertainment or seeking a deeper understanding of Mississippi’s rich artistic spirit, our state is home to an impressive and amazing array of well-curated and interactive museum experiences.

Learn more about our maritime and seafood culture on the coast or travel to the Delta where you can experience the grit and gutsiness of our early pioneers. Don’t miss the outstanding Mississippi Collection of visual arts at Jackson’s Mississippi Museum of Art. And by all means, be sure to explore the local museums that reside off the beaten path, where you’ll encounter the voices who can best share our state’s great story of musical expression, civil rights, cultural heritage and determination.

Native American Heritage

Native American Heritage

Though many people are familiar with places throughout our state that hold Native American names — including Yalobusha, Itawamba and Mississippi itself — few realize just how many native peoples made their home in our state. Many historians agree that the area now known as Mississippi was home to a greater variety of indigenous tribes than any other southeastern state. Up into the 1700s — when recordkeeping of the region began — local tribes included the Acolapissa, Biloxi and Pascagoula tribes on the Gulf Coast; the Bayougoula, Houma and Natchez tribes on the lower Mississippi; and the Chakchiuma, lbitoupa, Koroa, Ofogoula, Taposa, Tiou, Tunica and Yazoo tribes on the Yazoo River in the Mississippi Delta. The Choctaw inhabited the east central part of the state, while the Chickasaw dwelled in the north and northeast. The original Mississippians were most likely the Choctaw, who date back to the early 1500s. The Choctaw were the most populous by far and remain so to this day.

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, descendants of Choctaws who refused to leave their homeland after the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, still live near Philadelphia, Mississippi. Today, the Choctaw Indian Reservation covers 35,000 acres of tribal lands in ten Mississippi counties, and Choctaw is still the first language learned in the home. And, while maintaining such proud traditions, the Mississippi Choctaws have stepped into the future with their own tribal-owned industries.

Visitors to the region can immerse themselves in Choctaw culture by stopping by the Choctaw Heritage Museum or attending the annual Choctaw Indian Fair, which is held every summer in July. This regionally renowned event is host to the World Champion Stickball Games and includes a celebration of tribal music, crafts and traditions.




We want to make sure you're not a robot!