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Trails project reaches second phase

NATCHEZ — Attendees of a meeting about phase two of the Natchez Trails Project walked away from the meeting with a list of contacts to help fill in Natchez’s African-American history.

The list might not provide too many direct voices on the other end, however, because it was a directory of St. Catherine Street residents from 1891.

Darrell White, director of the Natchez cultural heritage tourism and the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Museum, said the directory could hopefully lead to a suitcase of old photographs or stories.

Gathering information about the history of St. Catherine Street is an undertaking with which he and Historic Natchez Foundation Director Mimi Miller want help from the public.

Miller said she has until June 1 to gather as much rich history of St. Catherine Street and its surrounding streets to create the content for the historic panels that will line the new sidewalks as part of the project.

As Miller scrolled through a slideshow, it was evident that the public had knowledge to offer as attendants spoke out, naming the images in the photographs as well as what buildings are now located in their place.

Two residents of the nearly 30 who attended came ready with envelops of old, wallet-sized black and white photographs and Polaroid pictures.

“I just got a picture of the Lewis Winston House,” Miller said to White at the close of the meeting.

Tony Moon, who spoke about the engineering aspect of the project, said the budget for phase two infrastructure would likely allow only enough funds to redo sidewalks and install panels without adding lighting on St. Catherine Street.

Moonsaid narrow sidewalks in areas where city right-of-way interferes would present challenges.

White spoke after the presentation about the community’s opportunity to tell the story of the African-American history of Natchez through the panels.

White said St. Catherine Street started on one end with a slave market at the Forks of the Road and ended at the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Chapel, the church where Hiram Revels served on the pulpit before becoming the first black U.S. Congressman in 1870.

“St. Catherine Street itself was the Southern road to freedom,” White said.

The St. Catherine Street Trails Project will extend along St. Catherine Street from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street to the site of the Forks of the Road slave markets.

Like the first phase of the Natchez Trails Project, the second phase will include upgraded sidewalks, landscaping and interpretive panels.

Miller and White are seeking pictures of people and families who lived in the St. Catherine Street neighborhood, buildings that once stood on St. Catherine Street, or its side streets and activities at Brumfield School and churches

Those willing to share historic information or photographs for phase two panels can contact White at NAPAAC at 601-445-0728 or Miller at the Historic Natchez Foundation at 601-442-2500.

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