Unifying history: Fall Pilgrimage events offer view of both sides of story

Published 12:59 am Wednesday, September 27, 2017


NATCHEZ — Natchez’s African-American history is on full display during Fall Pilgrimage.

Jeremy Houston, owner of Miss-Lou Heritage Group and Tours, partnered with the owners of Choctaw Hall and Clermont Bluffs to present “The Narrative of A Natchez Slave” in antebellum houses around town.

Email newsletter signup

This Friday and Saturday Houston will perform the narrative in Choctaw Hall with the help of the house’s owner, David Garner.

Houston was dropping off brochures when he first approached Garner.

“I’d never performed in an antebellum home,” Houston said. “I asked him and he said, ‘That would be wonderful.’”

Garner said collaborating on projects such as, “The Narrative of a Natchez Slave,” is a step toward unifying the town.

“I really appreciate what they’re doing,” Garner said. “I think it’s time that we fused everything together. History happened. We’re not going to erase it; we’re going to embrace it. Natchez needs to learn that in general.”

Garner said it is in the interest of the town to embrace programs that unify antebellum houses and the history of slavery from a business aspect as well.

“Yes, Natchez needs industry,” Garner said. “But Natchez is a capsule of history. We should capitalize on this industry of tourism that we already have here.”

Garner said he hopes hosting this event in Choctaw Hall will bring publicity to Miss-Lou Heritage Group and to Natchez tourism in general.

“You’re bringing two aspects of history together and you’re putting them in one place,” Houston.

On Oct. 7, Houston will perform again in Clermont Bluffs.

As a part of the Clermont Bluffs event, Houston will discuss the Devil’s Punch Bowl, an area where many freed slaves died when it was turned into a detention center after the Civil War.

Houston said history — and legend — surrounds the area that needs dissecting.

Troy Brickford, co-owner of Clermont Bluffs, said he is happy to facilitate Houston’s event.

“Natchez has a long history of telling its story from one perspective,” Brickford said. “History is much more interesting if you hear the story from multiple perspectives.”

When he first joined Natchez Pilgrimage Tours in the spring, Houston said he guided approximately 300 tourists around Natchez, showing them the “mecca of African-American history” in Mississippi.

Though this is the first time he has performed during Fall Pilgrimage, Houston said the group has been integral to the success of Miss-Lou Heritage Group.

When he first conceived the idea in 2015, he approached Natchez Pilgrimage Tours and asked for advice in getting a tour service started.

“They’ve been helping me all along the way,” he said.

Houston said he founded Miss-Lou Heritage Tours because he saw a wealth of African-American history in Natchez going relatively unnoticed.

“These people’s stories are just as important as Haller Nutt’s five plantations in Mississippi and Louisiana,” Houston said.

Tourists come through town all year long, Houston said, and for each visitor he notes his or her name and hometown in a small notebook.

The black and white notepad is now filled with the names of men and women from England, Australia, and all corners of the United States.

Houston said he is happy to spotlight this facet of the city’s history.

“We’re bridging the gap,” he said. “You see people here from Florida, New Jersey, France, London — that’s why I wanted to get this message out. We want to bring a new facet to Natchez tourism culture.”