Cross racial divide with Black and Blue Civil War program

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 5, 2017

The annual Black and Blue Civil War Living History Program event provides an opportunity for solving historical inequities along the Natchez racial divide per what Professor Jack Davis said about Natchez’s African-American history and history itself in his book, “Race Against Time: Cultural Separation in Natchez Since 1930.” Davis concluded that “each initiative toward making public history in Natchez more racially inclusive represent another victory of the African American experience and, one might add a victory for history itself.”

Our program showcasing local African-American Civil War history and experiences in a living history format addresses the lack of public knowledge about such history as was clearly demonstrated at a recent Natchez tourism industry providers gathering at the Hotel Vue several weeks ago sponsored by the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau tourism promotion agency and the Natchez National Historic Park.

At this gathering, the local National Park Service showed the tourism providers a short documentary film titled “Fort McPherson Meets the Forks of the Road.” The film presented a narrative history about the Union army’s presence in Natchez juxtaposed against the enslavement selling markets that operated at the Forks of Road.

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One of the elder tourism providers stood up and enthusiastically said she had never heard of Fort McPherson and the film should be shown in the Natchez Visitor  Reception Center. She was sure right about it should be showing in the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

Why she never heard of Fort McPherson? Is it because Civil War history publicly promoted in Natchez  and the Pilgrimage Confederate Pageant now called “The Tabloid” for decades on the part of both Natchez CVB and the tourism industry providers, with exception of a few recent years, showcased what Jack Davis called “white culture?”

If the local “white” tourism industry providers would have crossed the racial divide and attended the annual Black and Blue Civil War events for the past nine years and Natchez CVB would have meaningfully promoted the same there would not be common ignorance not only about Fort McPherson but about the self emancipation history and experiences of enslaved people in and “beyond the big house” in the Civil War.

Even before Friends of Forks of Roads Society started up our annual Blacks in the Civil War living history program in 2008, we in 2005 publicly presented Fort McPherson existence and history in the living history outdoor theater forum titled “Slavery Meets Freedom at the Forks of the Road” which is how the producer of the film “Fort McPherson Meets the Forks of the Road” was introduced to the concept. That play was promoted as an example which the tourism providers and tourism promotion industries — CVB included — here in Natchez could draw upon to begin moving toward equal history accomplishment.

In 2010, Friends of Forks of Roads hosted a public workshop in the Natchez board of alderpersons meeting hall aimed at prepping local sources’ capacity to show and tell the enslaved peoples’ Civil War’s freedom fighting roles and history for the Sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary of the American Civil War celebrated statewide and nationally. At the time we focused on African descendants who served in both the Union army and navy.

Attendee Lynette Tanner of Frogmore Plantation commented that if she had known of the quality of the professional presenters, she would have gotten more people to attend.

Since this year’s Black and Blue Civil War event is focusing on blacks in the Union navy, one of the two professional presenters from our 2010 Sesquicentennial teach-in has been engaged again to help the audience experience, hear the sounds and see the smoke of Union navy battle ships on which the self-emancipated (runaway) African descent sailors, nurses and civilians served.

At 10:30 a. m. on Oct. 14 at Historic Jefferson College, renowned Civil War historian Parker Hills of Clinton (www.battlefocus) will present a one-hour dramatic Powerpoint teach-in about “Lincoln’s Brown Water Navy” Mississippi Squadron battle ships in action in the Mississippi Valley during the Civil War. He said he has added more information since his 2010 presentation.

Given current local and national racial tension indeed this Black and Blue Civil War equal history initiative is another opportunity for people to cross the racial divide and help make our region “more racially inclusive” Jack Davis!

Ser Seshsh Ab Heter-CM Boxley is an organizer of the Black and Blue Civil War history program.