City earns $200,000 grant to help fund ‘Forks’ project

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 12, 2001

Prior to the Civil War, the site of Forks of the Road in Natchez, was said to be the second largest slave market in the South.

&uot;Obviously this was the place of entry for many African Americans to Mississippi and perhaps to the United States,&uot; said Kenneth P’Pool, director of the historic preservation division of the Mississippi Department of Archives & History.

To help preserve this historical treasure, the Mississippi Department of Archives & History awarded a $200,000 grant to the City of Natchez last week.

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&uot;We want to congratulate Natchez and have people come forth to embrace this,&uot; said Natchez resident and community activist Ser Seshshab Heter — C.M. Boxley.

The City of Natchez can use the funding to acquire land around the site of a state historical marker on St. Catherine Street.

Once the city acquires that land, the state will be able to set up an &uot;interpretive wayside&uot; at the site — a display that will depict more history than a historical marker can provide.

&uot;Going to the places where history actually happened is an important way to experience that history,&uot; P’Pool said.

&uot;History is frequently embodied in the sites where it occurred.&uot;

The $200,000 is part of $2.8 million in grants awarded through the African American Heritage Program.

The state Legislature created the program in 2000 to assist local governments and nonprofit groups in preserving and interpreting African American heritage sites in Mississippi.

It received 51 applications requesting more than $16 million, and the state announced its 16 recipients last week.

All of these projects — including Forks of the Road — are a way for Mississippi to come to grips with slavery, Boxley said.

&uot;All over the state Mississippi is going to come of age in dealing with its slavery past and I think that’s commendable,&uot; Boxley said.

Natchez will play a big role in this process and by doing so involve the African Americans in tourism to a greater degree, Boxley said.

&uot;This is the indivisible other side of the story that is being promoted annually by Pilgrimage and what have you,&uot; Boxley said.

Once the city acquires the land it will help people have a better understanding of why the site is important, P’Pool said.

&uot;Right now it’s difficult to understand the place because it has other businesses on it that don’t necessarily relate to the history of the place,&uot; he said.

The local Underground Railroad Association also deserves credit for promoting this project to the state, Boxley said.