Feds seek funds to recognize Forks of Road

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2000

A National Park Service official is looking into the possibility of getting federal funds to acquire land around the Forks of the Road, said a local activist pushing for the site’s recognition.

The Forks of the Road — the juncture of Liberty Road, St. Catherine Street and D’Evereaux Drive — was once the location of the second-largest slave market in America, dating back to the early 1800s.

Ser Seshshab Heter-C.M. Boxley is heading a group of Natchez area residents pushing to get an interpretive center established at the site to tell its story. Not to build such a memorial, he believes, would be doing the African-American ancestors a disservice.

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An application filed with the National Park Service last year to make the site a national landmark was stalled because the property’s owners would not give their approval.

But Barbara Tagger of the Park Service’s Underground Railroad Sites program, told the group at a meeting last week in Natchez that she is still looking at two options to get the site recognized.

The first possibility would be to seek U.S. Department of Transportation funding to purchase land just north and south of the site.

The second would be to pursue a Historic Trails designation for the area. &uot;They didn’t say this is positively going to happen, but have said they’ll look into it,&uot;&160;Boxley said.

Tagger could not reached for comment.

&uot;It went quite well,&uot;&160;Josephine Webster of Vidalia said of the meeting. &uot;I&160;now have more hope that this will happen.&uot;

Boxley said he is scheduled to meet with Tagger and possibility other Park Service officials at the end of next week in Atlanta to see if any progress has been made toward getting such funds.

If approved, the site would actually be a part of Tagger’s program, which recognizes sites with a connection to the Underground Railroad, a network of people who helped slaves escape to freedom.

The Forks of the Road would fit into the Underground Railroad program because it symbolizes slavery – the very reason black people wanted to run away, Boxley said.

He said he envisions eventually building a museum and interpretive center on the site to attract tourists, do historical research and hold classes and performances.