Group plans for Civil War commemoration

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 5, 2010

NATCHEZ — Commemorating a bloody war may sound like a strange thing to bring a diverse group of people together.

But on Thursday, more than two-dozen historians, park rangers, tour guides, re-enactors and interested citizens discussed how to inform, entertain and educate people during the upcoming 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.

And, although many people may think Natchez’s involvement in the Civil War was fairly benign — our area was not the scene of a famous battle, for example — the complex fabric of Natchez’s history is a story the touches nearly all aspects of the Civil War story, organizers said.

“We have Unionists. We have enslaved people. We have children of Unionists who became Confederates,” said Kathleen Jenkins, superintendent of the Natchez National Historical Park. “Looking at all these different facets is one of the compelling parts of our story. The National Park Service is focusing on more things than just the battles.”

The participants in Thursday organizational meeting have the goal of first gathering up all of the dates for events already scheduled as part of the anniversary that will begin in 2011 and continue on for four years.

Once that list is compiled, the group plans to begin organizing events and programs that could potentially reach everyone from school children to locals to historically minded tourists.

Given the area’s rich history that’s a complex task, but one in which the group hopes to thoroughly tell, particularly the story of blacks in the area — both slaves and free blacks.

“We’re well aware that there are many layers to this story,” said Darrell White, director of the Natchez Museum of African-American History and Culture. “All aspects have to be put forward.”

The group is considering making the effort a regional effort, effectively including all areas that were included in the Old Natchez District that included most of present day Warren, Jefferson, Claiborne, Adams, Franklin, Wilkinson and Amite counties.

“This is exciting because this history before the Civil War is what Natchez became famous for,” said René Adams with the Natchez Coffee Company and who has been active in tourism for years.

“Who knows what good can come out of this?” Jenkins said in closing the meeting.

Another meeting will be scheduled soon.

For more information on the group or to find out how to get involved, contact Jenkins by e-mail to kathleen_jenkins@nps.gov or by phone at 601-442-7049, Ext. 13.