Black heritage tourism must come to forefront

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 27, 2002

Almost any description of Natchez includes words such as history, heritage and hospitality. The meanings of those words are as diverse as Natchez itself.

Today, Natchez finds itself searching for the meanings of those words. The city is learning how to define itself, learning to how to handle labeling and dissecting history.

When many people think of Natchez, they see the beautiful antebellum structures. Quickly, they become lost in a one-sided view of history.

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Visions from &uot;Gone with the Wind&uot; waft across the verandas and into their dreams.

While those dreams are extremely important to the economy of cities such as Natchez, society must use care not to gloss over the history of those people who could not sit back and relax along the verandas.

Too often, the lives of blacks are overlooked in the grand scheme of telling history. The stories of those who labored in the fields go untold. The men and women upon whose backs great wealth was amassed often are forgotten.

For decades, this could be blamed squarely on the racist power structure in America. Fortunately, time has removed much of that structure. And through the generations, old ways of thinking and tradition will continue to fall away.

Now it is critical for Natchez residents &045;&045; black and white &045;&045; to work together to plan ways in which to include the stories and history of all residents.

No one is saying replace the antebellum houses with museums on slavery. The city needs to continue to protect and nourish the tourism it has.

But in doing so, the focus should be on giving credit where credit is due. Great strides have been made by a number of resources: The National Park Service, the NAPAC Museum and a burgeoning crew of black heritage tour guides.

History, it is said, is written by the victors.

In the South, the victors do not fall into one racial category. Rather the victors in the modern South are those who survive and those who realize that they must depend upon their neighbors to make the community grow.