The Mississippi Freedom Trail, an initiative of the Mississippi Development Authority, will create markers for tourists and Mississippians to explore the state's civil-rights heritage. This morning, state and city leaders gathered to announce the trail, which will honor civil-rights leaders and historical events.
Leslie McLemore, director of the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Democracy and Citizenship at Jackson State University, was a member of the task force which identified the sites. The group, consisting of scholars, historians, and veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, reviewed 300 proposed sites over the past year, and narrowed them down to 20.
On May 18, MDA officials will unveil the first marker near the former Bryant's Grocery Store in Money, Miss. The marker honors Emmett Till, a 14-year black boy who was murdered after allegedly whistling at a white women in the grocery store in 1955.
"This is a significant, historic occasion in the history of Mississippi," McLemore said during the press conference at the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center this morning. "Quite frankly, this is a coming-out party for the state of Mississippi. We are recognizing our own history. The history we made. Having these markers on display throughout this state is really going to be important."
Five of the first 30 sites are associated with the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders this month. In 1961, 13 civil-rights activists rode buses through the South to challenge Jim Crow laws, and they were arrested in Jackson. Hundreds more followed.
In conjunction with a week-long series of events for the anniversary, MDA will unveil five markers: Medgar Evers' house in Jackson; the former Greyhound bus station in Jackson; Ruleville to honor Fannie Lou Hamer; and the Mississippi State Penitentiary.
Tougaloo College, MDA and private donors are funding the first five markers, which each cost $8,700 to $10,000. The rest of the markers are funded through the 2010 Civil Rights Historic Sites Program passed by the Mississippi Legislature last year.
For more information about the sites, visit http://www.visitmississippi.org.
Also read: "I am Emmett Till"