Forks of the Road exhibit great news

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 31, 2004

The completion of an important part of the plan for Forks of the Road, only a couple of months on the heels of the William Johnson House opening, is excellent news. It raises spirits of

those who understand that tourism in Natchez must grow in diverse ways to keep the share of the market Natchez has grown accustomed to have.

With the excellent, professional-quality exhibit designed by Cavett Taff of Jackson and the invaluable input from Natchez experts on the subject of the site’s history, the story of Forks of the Road, once the second-largest slave market in the Deep South, now can be told.

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Of course, it is only a beginning. More will come &045;&045; and should come &045;&045; to tell the stories of people whose lives are intertwined with Forks of the Road. For many generations, the area has been nondescript, housing a few small buildings that told nothing of the historical importance of the area along St. Catherine Street where the road even today makes a fork.

Now, both Natchez visitors and those from afar can read about the history and stand on that ground where so many enslaved human beings stood. No one can feel today what it must have been like then, but at the very least, the ground has been given a level of respect and dignity for the ages.

With Forks of the Road and the Johnson House, the brick house on State Street built by a free black man who became a successful businessman and a slaveholder himself, Natchez has two outstanding new elements in presenting the story of the African American in the years before the Civil War.

The stories of the two sites are different but both fascinating and important to American history and history of the South. Both stories must be told. Both are compelling stories to ponder and to share.

We know these two sites will make a difference in the tourist’s experience in Natchez. And Natchez residents should be proud the stories finally are being told in a tangible, high-quality manner.