New signs could fade ugly message

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 14, 2010

Walking the streets of downtown Natchez is a study in days of an almost forgotten era.

Signs of the past are everywhere. Every street corner has a story to tell.

But equally as important are the stories rarely heard, the stories of the enslaved people who lived and worked behind the large antebellum mansions for which our community is so famous.

Despite being legally freed, those slaves and generations of their descendants struggled for equal rights — and equal history. Even today signs of past injustices surround us.

More than 500 black soldiers from Adams County who fought in World War I are not listed alongside their white counterparts on plaques outside the former Memorial Hall downtown.

A few years ago that building was restored as a federal courthouse.

Now that our community has been made aware of the omission, it’s our generation’s duty to correct the past injustices.

Certainly the federal government can work with local historians and preservationists to create a fitting tribute and, even if only in a small way, correct the errors of the past.

We believe rather than trying to simply cover up the past wrong by creating new, all-inclusive plaques, perhaps addressing the problems of our past directly would be best. Maybe the best move is a memorial to black soldiers in the lobby or near the plaques already on the building with a simple explanation of how things have changed since the days of Jim Crow.

That might be a sign that truly shows change and that our community is not afraid of publicly owning up to its past — even the ugly parts.