Natchez Cultural Heritage Experience
Natchez incorporated in the year 1716, and considered the birthplace of Mississippi, is known internationally as a quaint Southern town with a culture and heritage enriched by the contributions of many. Beginning with the Natche’, the indigenous Native American culture for whom the town was named. To be followed over the years by the French, African, British, and Spanish influences, whose collective impact are still evident to this day.
Natchez was not the site of the working plantations; it was a major port for commerce and trade, and where the homes of our nation’s most prominent cotton planters were located. The major cotton plantations were located North in the Mississippi Delta, South, and West of here in the flatlands of Louisiana. Natchez served as the marketplace where trade in our nation’s most valued export cotton was carried out. Many enslaved people in the Natchez area worked in support of operations in the town homes of the planters. They cooked, cleaned, tended to the needs of the families, cared for livestock, drove carriages, and operated small gardens. Natchez also was the home to the largest population of free people of color in the State of Mississippi prior to the Civil War. Few American cities offer an in-depth look at the lives of southerners like Natchez. Walk in the footsteps of Southern belles, cotton barons, enslaved people, Civil War soldiers, and Civil Rights pioneers. There is much to see and experience as you Visit Natchez. The following is offered for your consideration in no specific order.
- We recommend beginning your Natchez experience at Natchez Visitor Reception Center. Here you will be greeted by a warm and knowledgeable staff, dedicated to help you make the most of your visit. Be sure to watch the 20-minute video, The Natchez Story, and enjoy learning the overall history of how this enchanting city came to be. After the movie, enjoy our interactive, paneled exhibit depicting the development of the area. Step behind the life-size paddle wheel, feel real cotton, and play the interactive game that allows you to take a journey down the Mississippi River. Then venture over to the ticket counters and purchase historic home, carriage ride, and tour tickets all under one roof.
- Take the short drive out to the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians and stroll the hallowed ground of the home of the city’s original inhabitants. There are ceremonial mounds at the site, and a museum complete with artifacts that have been recovered on and around the site over the years. The Grand Village is very kid-friendly with hands-on activities and plenty of space to run around and play. It’s one of many unique and historically rich things to do in Mississippi.
- Fort Rosalie – Natchez National Historic Park: Today you can walk the land mass which was once the site of the French encampment overlooking the mighty Mississippi. Although nothing remains from the original structures, you can explore its nature trails and picnic in this park like setting. Fat Mama’s Tamales and the Pig Out Inn are close by to fulfill your needs.
- Silver Street – Natchez Under the Hill: Is still the site where Mississippi River Boats have docked for generations. At one time this area was considered to be a rouge man’s paradise, where business, drinking, gambling and more than just a few loose women could be found in this area of town. It was once said that it would take an event of biblical proportions to straighten things out. Changes in the rivers flow have wiped out much of the earlier land mass. Today there are shops, restaurants and a saloon which pays tribute to days of old and Mark Twain on the River.
- State Street – William Johnson House – Natchez National Historic Park: Home of the most accomplished freeman of color in pre-Civil War Natchez. He was a barber by trade and diarist by passion. His 16 years of writing (1835-1851) have been determined to be the most comprehensive look at life in the pre-Civil War South, particularly one of African descent.
- Churches – There were a number of firsts within the Natchez religious community. Many of these houses of worship are available for you to visit for tours/services, each unique in their own way. St Mary Basilica was constructed as the first Cathedral in Mississippi and is truly an architectural gem, Holy Family was the state’s first Black Catholic congregation, Rose Hill was the first Black Baptist. Temple B’Nai Israel, First Presbyterian, Trinity Episcopal and Jefferson Street United Methodist are also listed among these houses of worship which are all within walking distance in the downtown area.
- Fork of the Road – In 1833 the City of Natchez passed an ordinance restricting the street corner and waterfront sales of interstate transported enslaved people. The site became the 2nd busiest slave trafficking marketplace in the Deep South. In 1863 the site was transformed into a place where freedom from enslavement could be found during the Union occupation of Natchez during the Civil War. Commemorative markers at the site tell its story, and is well worth a visit. The property will soon become a part of the Natchez National Historic Park.
- St Catherine Street – Heading west from the Forks of the Road you travel on what is considered to be among the most profound streets in American history. Many have referred to it as a “Southern Road to Freedom.” During Reconstruction (1870-1877) prominent members of the African American community began to occupy homes along this 3/4 of a mile. The Saint Catherine Street Trails project outlines the details of the significance of what was accomplished on this street. Moving up from slavery, the street ends at the Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church where it’s Pastor the Reverend Hiram Rhodes Revels would leave Natchez in 1870 and become the first African American to sit in either House of the U.S. Congress, and serve as a United States Senator.
- The Proud to Take a Stand monument, marking the site of one of the significant events of the Civil Rights movement in Natchez.
- Natchez Museum of African American History & Culture – This site on Main Street is a depository of Information and artifacts that pertain to the contributions made by people of African descent to this city, state, nation and world. A visit here is well worth your time, and the stories and materials presented are highly informative.
Additional tour information and local travel guides can be obtained at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.