The cultural, artistic and historic heritage of Mississippi extends far beyond the borders of the Magnolia State.
Visit Mississippi and you'll soon discover that what makes the African American community is the people. And what makes the people is character and courage. Travel across the country and you'll encounter few people with a heritage as rich and strong as Mississippi's African Americans. You'll find more than a distinct culture in Mississippi –you'll discover a legacy of enduring spirit. You'll hear it in the songs they sing and the stories they tell and see it in their art. It's the saga of a people beginning in 1719, when the French bought the first African slaves here to help build the Natchez settlement.
Native Americans: Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
Mississippi is from a Choctaw word which means "older than time". Travellers will notice interesting Native American name places scattered throughout the state, not only the name Mississippi, but also names like Yalobusha, Oktibbeha, Conehatta, Okolona, Toomsuba, Tunica, Yazoo, Pachuta, Chunky, Biloxi and Tockshish.
The Choctaws were the most populous tribe in Mississippi, inhabiting the area for thousands of yeras (the other largest tribe, the Chickasaws, lived in the northern Delta and Hills region) and their influence stretched all the way to the coast. The tribe's creation story begins near the sacred mounds of Nanih Waiya in Winston County.
Immerse yourself in Choctaw culture by attending the annual Choctaw Indian Fair held every summer in July, where the World Champion Stickball Games are held along with music and crafts or visit the Choctaw Heritage Musuem on the reservation.
The Mississippi landscape is scarred from their long battle for Civil Rights. But today, over fifty years later, it is the most healed place in the nation. The fruits of a generation's toil are seen in every political contest, in every boardroom, in every school and in every town. While the ends of such journeys may never be realised, Mississippi leads the way in opportunity and accomplishment as defined in the hopes of those men and women, young and old, who put their lives at risk in the struggle for racial justice. From Medgar Evers and Unita Blackwell has come the vision to lead; from Bob Moses and Fannie Lou Hamer has come the courage to stand; from Robert Clark and Michael Espy has come the opportunity to prove; and from William Winter to Hodding Carter has come the commitment to decency. These heroes of uncommon strength, and the countless more who lived and died in a nation's and certainly a state's darkest hours, lit the brightest of flames to lead Mississippi forward.
On May 18, 2011 the first of the five pre-selected markers was officially unveiled in memory of Emmett Till near Bryant's Store in Money, Mississippi. Other sites on the Mississippi Freedom Trail so far are Medgar Evers' House in Jackson Greyhound Bus Station, Fannie Lou Hamer's Gravesite in Ruleville and Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Twenty more markers will be put up around the state with more to come in the future.
150 years on, the Civil War remains one of the most analyzed and debated periods in our history, its extraordinary bloodshed leading tot he preservation of a nation and the emancipation of a people. Reminders of the struggle are scattered throughout Mississippi - the Corinth Contraband Camp where former slaves first breathed freedom, the rugged hills and majestic mounuments of Vicksburg, the graves of unknown soldiers, and ironically the libraries of two presidents on opposing sides of the conflict, Ullysses S. Grant and Jefferson Davis – each telling a story of a time and a war of complexity, tragedy and ultimately of humanity.
The battlegrounds remain. In 1862 Grant marched towards Vicksburg, knowing control of "The Gibraltar of the South" meant control of the Mississippi River; the Union's plan thrust the people of Mississippi into the longest and most complex campaign of the entire war. In 1864, Union troops were dealt a stunning defeat by a handful of Confederates and General Nathan Bedford Forrest at Brice's Crossroads. Apocryphas, perhaps, they say a tank commander named Rommel visited in the 1930's, walking the battlefield and studying the brilliant tactics of his military mentor. In southeast Mississippi, a soldier rebelled against his own and a war not his, creating the Free States of Jones deep within the Confederacy.
Mississippi heritage has left footprints throughout history, and you can relive them by visiting Mississippi.