OUR OPINION: Free Mississippi Freedom Trail Markers could be an asset for Vicksburg

Published 8:00 am Friday, January 20, 2023

The Mississippi Humanities Council and Visit Mississippi announced last week a new program that, for a limited time, would cover the $10,000 cost of a Freedom Trail marker for those who applied.

Vicksburg is already recognized by the Mississippi Freedom Trail. According to the MHC website, a marker at the corner of Washington and Veto streets honors the legacy of educator Frank Crump Jr. During the Freedom Summer of 1964, Crump registered black voters and served as a Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegate. An outspoken activist, he participated in the 1972 Vicksburg boycott to demand equal rights from city officials and downtown merchants.

Nearby Mayersville, the Issaquena County seat, also boasts a marker honoring Unita Blackwell, the town’s first Black mayor who contributed to the civil rights movement as an SNCC activist and Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party representative at the Democratic National Convention in 1964. Blackwell served as an adviser to Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and was recognized as a MacArthur Fellow in 1993. This marker is located across the street from the Issaquena County Courthouse in Mayersville.

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We are lucky to have these markers in our area, but it goes without saying that there are more sites and people in Warren County who could be honored.

The Catfish Row Museum’s Voices and Votes exhibit — along with The Post’s profiles on local civil rights activists — provides a couple of ideas. Places like the Blue Room or the site of the COFO office bombing in 1964, near Clay Street and Mission 66 would be appropriate for markers.

Beyond those, Vicksburg boasts a proud history of civic engagement through the NAACP and other civil rights organizations that formed to fight racial inequality.

There are some existing markers across the state that commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King’s visits. Vicksburg is also the site of a visit from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964 — who’s to say that’s not worthy of a marker?

Then, of course, there are lesser-known but still important figures who shaped the civil rights movement on a local level.

Thanks to the MHC and Visit Mississippi removing the financial barrier for these markers, there’s never been a better time to share Vicksburg’s history with residents and visitors. All residents need to do is apply at mshumanities.org. The deadline for applications is March 31.