Clean Traveler: Jackson, Mississippi Civil Rights Path – Relentless Tenacity

ABOVE PHOTO: Mississippi Civil Rights Museum (Photo: Michael Barera / Wikipedia)

By Renée S. Gordon

The first recorded European explorer to reach Mississippi was Hernando De Soto in 1540. At that time, Indians had lived there for 12,000 years, and three indigenous tribes were the most prominent – Chickasaw, Choctaw and Natchez.

It was these inhabitants who gave the river and the state its name as the “father of water” – Misi-ziibi. They were driven out through unfair treaties and oppression, and in 1719 the French introduced significant numbers of enslaved people to the region. (

Jackson – Mississippi’s capital – is located in the central part of the state on the Pearl River. A French trading post was set up there in 1792. In 1798 the area had 4,500 whites and 2,400 blacks. Thirty years later, a treaty allowed white settlement. The settlement was named after the then General Andrew Jackson and became the location of the state capital in 1821 due to its proximity to the Pearl River and the Natchez Trail.

When Mississippi gained statehood in 1817, it led the country in cotton production because of its “Petit Gulf” cotton. They were producing up to 3,000 pounds an acre when the average was 530 pounds.

Increased production required increased numbers of slaves, and by the 1830s there were 200,000 slaves, more than the number of whites.

At the beginning of the Civil War there were 353,901 whites and 436,631 enslaved people. Due to the pervasive fear of insurrection, slave laws were particularly strict and the number of freed enslaved people was kept to a minimum. In 1857 a law was passed that made private emancipation illegal. However, enslaved people always exerted subtle resistance by working slowly, breaking tools, feigning illness, etc.

The exhibition Emmitt Till (Photo: Renée S. Gordon)

At the same time, slavery was legal in five of the county’s ten richest states, and there were a total of 3,953,760 enslaved people, valued at approximately $ 4.3 billion. Mississippi left the Union on January 9, 1861. It changed hands nine times during the war and suffered considerable damage. In July 1864 a raid took place, which consisted of federal units and included a black cavalry regiment.

The state sent about 80,000 white men to war. Mississippi granted black “Confederates” a pension even though there were no black combat troops. This was underscored by the fact that it wasn’t until March 13, 1865 that the Confederate Congress passed a law allowing black men to serve in combat, but “nothing in this law is to be construed as authorizing a change in relationship that said slaves should have towards their owners. ”

Blacks served as non-combatants, helpers, factory workers, goods carriers, and personal servants of the troops. No state policy towards the emancipated African Americans was more prehistoric than Mississippi. Due to the one-crop economy and the large number of African Americans, the white population of Mississippi felt that they needed to become even more controlled and force blacks to remain in poverty without political power.

These factors peaked in 1955 with the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old visitor from Chicago. He was beaten and murdered in Money, Mississippi, after which a 75-pound cotton gin fan was tied around his neck and his body was dumped in the Tallahatchie River.

His death sparked global protests and the civil rights movement. It made Mississippi the site of a wave of activism that would bring about great change in the nation. Many of the locations on the state’s Civil Rights Trail are in Jackson. Follow this path to understand how common people did extraordinary things. (

The Jackson Civil Rights Movement Driving Tour consists of 80 locations in four neighborhoods. It includes homes, churches, schools, and venues with 11 designated Freedom Markers.

It begins in the 125-acre historic 19th-century Farish Street neighborhood, once Mississippi’s “Black Mecca,” at one of CNN’s “50 States 50 Attractions”, the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center. More than 1,000 artifacts are housed here in the city’s first public school for black children.

Tougaloo College was both a refuge and a place of organization for members of the civil rights movement. The college was founded in 1869 on the Boddie Plantation. All the great leaders, Hamer, Baldwin, König, Evers, Bond, Robert Kennedy, Bunche, Baez, and Rustin, spoke from the podium at Woodworth Chapel. The students left Woodworth to read-in at the Jackson Public Library in 1961, where they were arrested. The Cleman Library houses important civil rights documents.

Medgar Evers’ home (Photo: Jud McCranie / Wikipedia)

A life-size statue of Medgar Evers stands in front of the Medgar Evers Library, half a mile from the Medgar Evers Home Museum. He bought the house in 1957 on a GI loan and was murdered here on June 12, 1963. The activist and NAACP Secretary of State returned home at 12:20 a.m. after attending a meeting at the New Jerusalem Baptist Church.

Byron De La Beckwith shot him 150 feet out of a honeysuckle bush. away with a 1918 Enfield rifle. He died an hour later. Services were held at the Collins Funeral Home.

Mississippi Blues Trail (Photo: Renée S. Gordon)

Twelve Mississippi Blues Trail markers will be placed across the city to celebrate the city’s contributions to music. The Art Deco Alamo Theater from 1949, which is part of the “Chitlin Circuit”, is presented. It featured black films and actors. It was closed in 1983 and restored and reopened in 1997. (


The Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum are side by side and are connected by a lobby. Together they present a complete picture of the state’s history through artifacts, dioramas, interactive displays, audio, video and information panels.

The Museum of History presents more than 15,000 years of settlement in three chronological galleries on two floors. The exhibition areas are: 13,000 BC AD 1798, 1799-1865 – Shaping A State, and 1866 – Present – Remaking Society. Museum highlights include a 500-year-old dugout canoe and an in-depth exploration of the cotton kingdom and 19th-century slavery. The museum contains the world’s largest collection of Mississippi artifacts. (

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum honors those who participated in the civil rights movement from 1945 to 1970 through eight interactive exhibits, and I can’t recommend this museum enough. The museum takes you from the end of the Civil War to the present state of America. Galleries are built around an area – “That Little Light of Me” – that honors these activists with music and shows a light sculpture that increases in brightness as more people enter the area.

There are creative theaters throughout the exhibits. Visitors can watch videos in a church, a police car, and a prison cell. Other highlights include films about Emmett Till, the murdered civil rights activists and Medgar Evers. You can see the actual rifle with which Evers was murdered. The music of the movement plays during the tour. (

Visitors can watch COVID logs while interacting with history. Stay safe and visit these important websites.

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