Black history on display at visitor center

Published 12:19 am Friday, February 1, 2008

NATCHEZ — In celebration of Black History Month, beginning today, the Friends of Forks of the Road has compiled a special presentation currently on display at the Natchez Visitors Center.

Ser Sesh Ab Heter-C.M. Boxley, a coordinator with Forks of the Road, said the display is of great social and historical importance.

“This story has an essential message,” he said. “It shows people that before enslavement, Africans were a free and independent people.”

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The display, titled “The African-European Roots of the Underground Railroad,” will be on display for the entire month of February.

Framed on large poster boards, the exhibit shows the evolution of slavery across hundreds of years and its eventual arrival in early America.

Boxley said the exhibit also has a unique aspect in that it goes into some detail explaining the history of slavery that predates American involvement.

“Arabs were enslaving Africans as early as 700 A.D.,” he said. “That’s why there are so many black Muslims.”

Around 1440 when the Portuguese captured about 12 African slaves around Morocco, one of the men was actually a member of royalty, and helped to kick the slave trade into high gear.

Boxley said when the slave attempted to negotiate his own release with gold the riches of Africa became widely known through out the world.

“Africa is the richest country in the world,” he said. “It has every imaginable resource, and humans are a top-line resource.”

From the Portuguese to the Dutch, to the British and eventually to the Americans, the Atlantic slave trade continually grew, Boxley said.

‘This display can help to show what makes African people tick,” he said. “It is an important part of our heritage and our culture.”

And in the vein of celebrating that culture, the Natchez Visitors Center will be hosting several other displays to celebrate Black History Month.

Annette Anderson, a supervisor at the visitor center, said the displays are all a way to help people remember and celebrate black history month.

“We have some pretty amazing work on display,” she said.

Among the works will be a quilt display from the Culture Crossroads Quilters from Port Gibson.

Local artist Tony Lucas will also have his paintings depicting childhood and heritage Anderson said.

In addition, the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture will also display photos that show life in early Natchez.