Tapestry a learning opportunity, but no tests

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 15, 2010

My guess is that from time to time almost everyone who lives in Vicksburg wonders about local history — and would like to know a little more.

The Tapestry events series, which started Thursday and continues through April 5, provides a “learn at your own pace” opportunity.

In 2009, the first series was organized by the Vicksburg Bed and Breakfast Association, working in concert with the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. The idea, a great one, was to provide tourists a more in-depth experience than they might get during a driving tour or a walk through a museum or antebellum mansion.

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The programs will be equally informative for locals, the people who drive past historic sites every day. And they are low key. No pressure. No exams.

Charlie Mitchell is executive editor of The Vicksburg Post. Write to him at Box 821668, Vicksburg, MS 39182, or e-mail.

Saturday, for example, Sister Mary Paulinus Oakes, a Roman Catholic Sister of Mercy who happens to be a Vicksburg native, led a tour of the convent and school complex now home to the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation. Who wouldn’t want to know more about this order of nuns who arrived from Maryland in 1860 and whose members have worked here in education and health care since?

Thursday, educator Tillman Whitley, curator of the Jacqueline House African-American Museum, will talk about efforts to keep the singular history of blacks in Vicksburg from being forgotten or marginalized. Black history in Vicksburg includes bondage, freedom, Jim Crow and civil rights stories, but there’s a lot more including professional leadership and innovation during all those eras.

On Saturday, Ernesto Caldeiro of New Orleans, whose credits include serving as associate producer of TV’s “Search for Tomorrow,” will speak on an area of his expertise. Caldeiro prepared the genealogy for The Papers of Jefferson Davis, archived at Rice University in Houston, and will talk about members of the Confederacy’s first family who lived here.

On March 27, David Mitchell (no kin) will talk about Jews in Vicksburg, and he’ll do so in the newly restored Bazsinsky House, which has been home to Jewish families for more than 150 years.

On April 3, author Alan Huffman will talk about the sinking of the Sultana, still the worst maritime incident in the history of the United States. Vicksburg was the Sultana’s last port of call.

There’s a lot more. There will be presentations on:

• The art of quiltmaking.

• The slave trade in Vicksburg, including original auction papers.

• How Vicksburg’s river batteries defended the city during the Civil War.

• Tatting and the making of fine lace.

• Foods and beverages that might have been served when Cedar Grove Mansion was built in 1840, including samples.

• The practice of medicine in the 1860s.

A complete schedule is printed in the small, maroon guidebooks that can be picked up at most banks, motels, the state or local visitor centers or viewed online at www.vcvb.org.

There’s a charge to attend most of the events, but it’s not enough to require a student loan.

Those who have been meaning to learn a little more about the town where they live — regardless of how long they’ve lived here — might want to plan to attend one event, or several. Again, there are no tests. You don’t even have to tell anyone you’re not a tourist.