OUR OPINION: Embrace Vicksburg’s history this holiday weekend

Published 4:00 am Sunday, July 2, 2023

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you no doubt know by now that Vicksburg is celebrating a milestone anniversary in the city’s history.

With the 160th anniversary of the Siege and Surrender of Vicksburg culminating on Tuesday, there’s never been a better time to learn something new about the River City. The best part is, you don’t have to look far.

Vicksburg is a special place, rapt with history and the ghosts — both good and bad — of yesteryear. We talk about neighbors from the past like they’re still here.

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Take, for example, the Rev. Dr. W.W. Lord, featured in this weekend’s religion feature on page A6. The story of that family, and the fact that much of it was told through the lens of Lord’s son, whom many Vicksburgers know as “Willie,” is remarkable.

We don’t say, “In 1863, the Lord family lived in a cave,” with a cold sense of detachment from the past.

So often, the words surrounding Willie Lord and his father sound more like, “Well you know Dr. Lord was buried in that cave, but they got him out in time,” as though one is deeply engaged in coffeehouse conversation, talking about a neighbor.

We have the distinct privilege of access to historic buildings in our everyday lives: from the coffee shop that once served as a financial institution for Freedmen to many of our homes. Just think of all our residents from a certain generation who recall hunting Minie balls in their backyards after school — not every city is like this.

This spirit of Vicksburg dwindles through the generations even on a genetic level. Research shows that cells developed in times of strife change, and are actively passed on to future offspring. Our genes are shaped by traumas and victories at the most base level of our existence.

Because of our city’s history of defiance, strength and perseverance in the harshest conditions, not only does the blood of our ancestors run through our veins, but their responses to adversity as well.

We walk down the same brick streets and pass through the same doorways as our ancestors every day, and we do it while carrying their spirits. It should not be lost on Vicksburgers new and old how rare of an experience that is.

Take some time this weekend to learn your story, the story of your neighborhood and the story of our city. Much like Vicksburg was the “Key to the South,” an understanding of its history is a key to a deeper understanding of its beauty.