Natchez, Mississippi: History and Heritage On Every Corner
Reginald Dominique | 8/11/2017, 2:59 p.m.
By far, the most exciting part of my visit to Natchez was the amazing attractions. All visitors should make a stop at the Natchez Visitors Center. Located high on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, all of the federal, state, and local tourism agencies, including the National Park Service, Mississippi Welcome Center, and Natchez Pilgrimage Tours are all housed under one roof.
A can't miss is a tour of the many antebellum homes. One of the most beautiful sites was the Melrose mansion. Melrose mansion is a part of Natchez National Historical Park. During the tour, I learned that Melrose, like most of the antebellum homes in Natchez, was not a plantation, but rather a town home. Even though slave cabins are situated on the property, most of the plantations owned by wealthy Natchez residents were located across the Mississippi River in Louisiana. Planter John T. McMurran built Melrose in the 1840s, having made his fortune on the backs of over 300 slaves on five plantations totaling almost 10,000 acres.
After touring Melrose, next up was a guided tour by Jeremy Houston of Miss Lou Heritage Group & Tours. Jeremy, like myself, is a millennial whose passion is preserving the rich history of our ancestors. The tour led us down St. Catherine Street, which was known as the “Black Wall Street of Mississippi.”
African-American history in Natchez is older than the state itself. The earliest African-Americans were brought to the area as slaves before statehood in 1817. In the decades prior to the American Civil War, market places, where enslaved Africans were bought and sold, could be found in every town of any size in Mississippi. Natchez was unquestionably the nation’s most active slave trading city with the forks of the road following Alexandria, VA.
Besides the slavery history, there was a strong presence of the Civil Rights movement in the city as well. In 1870, Hiram Revels of Natchez became the first African-American to serve in the United States Senate. He later went on to become the First President of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities known today as Alcorn University. Also, be sure to stop by the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture Museum, housed in the old post office, and discover a wealth of artifacts about African-American heritage in Natchez.
Last, but certainly not lease...be prepare to be scared out of your wits on the Downtown Karla Brown Natchez Ghost Tour! This ghoulish trip tells you all about the history as well as tragedies of the unique Southern town. From the Natchez City Cemetery to the first city jail, this tour is sure to give you goose bumps. The tour guide, Karla is highly recommended and make sure you tell her Reggie with Houston Style Magazine sent you!
On a very personal note:
When you think of Natchez, MS you may not consider there to be much to do or no reason to go, but you’ve got it wrong. I loved everything about this unique city. The good food, timeless history and amazing locals really make this city a great destination to add to anyone’s list of places in the south to visit. I would highly suggest making it a two-to-three day trip if you want to take everything in. There’s no doubt that I will be back for more!
Houston Style Magazine sends our regards to Matt Sessions and Carlyn Topkin of Lou Hammond Group, Kelin Hendricks and Jennifer Combs of Visit Natchez and the Natchez Grand Hotel staff for the amazing hospitality!
For more information, visit visitnatchez.org.