Shape Up Vicksburg walks through history

Published 7:08 pm Thursday, February 22, 2018

Shape up Vicksburg and the Vicksburg National Military Park are teaming up to lead walkers on a historical tour of downtown Vicksburg to celebrate Black History Month.

The walk and talk will take place Saturday starting at 9 a.m. at the Jackson Street Community Center.

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“Some of the highlights we will be stopping at are Jackson Street Community Center, which was once the Jackson Street YMCA, at one time was an all African American YMCA, and the Elda O’Neil Library, which is next to that. Those were all for African Americans only at that time,” Shape up Vicksburg director Linda Fondren said.

The walk will follow two of the heritage walking tours through downtown Vicksburg, while highlighting the history of African Americans in the community. Additional stops will be Jefferson Funeral Home and Bethel A.M.E. Church. Rangers from the Vicksburg National Military Park will lead the tour and additional guides will be on hand at some of the stops to provide the history of that particular place.

“It will be about what influences our collective memory,” Fondren said. “It will be a walk and a talk so we will be asking questions along the way about what these stories mean that we are talking about. We will also walk to the courthouse because one of those routes lead to what was once a race riot in Vicksburg. We will be covering that story too.”

As Black History Month comes to a close, Fondren said the walk is a chance to highlight the stories of African Americans in the community and let them share their struggles and what the community has been through.

“Overcoming over a century of controlled history is a challenge and the VNMP will be there to facilitate the exploration of our rich community history,” Fondren said. “We don’t want to open old wounds, we don’t want to dwell on the negative, yet we owe it to ourselves and our community to fully explore our complex history. How will we overcome this hardship? How do we begin to tell these stories in Vicksburg?”

Fondren said the goal of the walk is also to bring attention to the new walking trails downtown that people in the community may not know exist. The walking trails officially opened in December when 35 markers were unveiled in downtown highlighting the history of the area and many of the prominent buildings.