Forks of Road campaign kicks off

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 11, 1999

&uot;Harambee!&uot; With that Swahili word, meaning &uot;pull together,&uot; Natchez activist Ser Shehsab-C.M. Boxley kicked off a campaign to make the Forks of the Road, once the site of second-largest slave market in America, a national historic landmark.

Joined by several supporters Wednesday for a meeting at the Mostly African Market, Boxley called upon individuals and groups to support an application submitted to the National Park Service to recognize the site.

&uot;We’re trying to bring fairness into the telling of the (antebellum) story,&uot;&160;said campaign supporter Darrell White. &uot;There’s another story, and we want to tell it.&uot;

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That, in turn, would reduce the stress and embarrassment that usually surrounds discussions of slavery and help Natchez tell a more complete story of antebellum days, Boxley said.

The market, located at St. Catherine Street and Liberty Road, dated back to the early 1800s. In June, Jim Barnett of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History submitted a landmark application to the Park Service in Atlanta.

For private property to be nominated, the land’s owner must sign off on the project. They have not signed, citing concerns about limits on how they could use the property if it is a landmark, and that has stalled the application.

So Barnett intends to change the application by the end of September to only include public rights-of-way along the roads surrounding the site – Liberty Road, St. Catherine Street and D’Evereux Drive.

Boxley’s list of supporters named 57 people and groups who have endorsed the Forks of the Road effort. But for the application to succeed, it must be backed by an even wider cross-section of the community, Boxley said. That is why he is asking for supporters to join the campaign.

The Park Service’s landmark review process takes about seven years, according to Barnett. More than one year has already been spent researching the application.

&uot;This landmark would affect all of Natchez, … adding to tourism and showing another part of our heritage,&uot;&160;said Bob Dobson of the National Park Service.