Forks of the Road exhibit on display at visitor center
Published 12:29 am Friday, January 26, 2018
by Sabrina Simms
NATCHEZ — A traveling exhibit detailing the history of the Forks of the Road is currently on display at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.
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Natchez historian Ser Seshs Ab Heter C.M. Boxely, who has been working to raise awareness about the historic slave market and its value to the community and the nation, created the exhibit that will be open through April 15.
“With the support of community activists, I have worked to rescue, resurrect, preserve, and interpret the history of the Forks of the Road enslavement market sites to the point of some of it becoming a part of the National Park Service this year,” Boxley said.
An opening reception for the traveling Forks of the Roads exhibit will be 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the lobby of the visitor center.
The exhibit which went on display last week, describes the history of the second largest slave trade center in the nation.
After its debut in 2012 at Purdue University, Boxley said the exhibit has traveled to various universities in Indianapolis, and Chicago before coming home to Natchez, where it will stay until April 15.
Coinciding with the reception, NPS Regional Leadership Council members and park superintendent representatives from 10 southeastern states will have a two-day meeting about the exhibit and the Natchez landmarks associated with it.
Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Bond said that after extensive studies of the land and after meeting multiple qualification criteria, Congress declared in 2017 that the land of Forks of the Road can be owned by the NPS and be a part of Natchez National Historical Park.
“The city had already pledged that, when Congress did pass that law, they would donate the lands that they own to the NPS,” Bond said.
She said pieces of land owned by the city that the NPS will own are only a tiny portion of the total site that is Forks of the Road. Bond said the total area of the slave trade route is massive. The piece that the NPS hopes to make a part of the Natchez National Historical Park extends from Concord Avenue to Rembert Street, down to D’Evereux Drive, just more than 18 acres of land.
“My task for this year is to look at the privately-owned pieces of property, make contact with those land owners, and see who is a willing seller,” Bond said. “We’ll work with what the most important historic pieces are, and figure out what our priority is for acquisition.”
Boxley said he feels that Forks of the Roads should be restored to educate the community of the history of his African-American ancestors.
“The Forks of the Road speaks to the African-American presence, culture, contributions and humanity just as the slavery era museums that they call ‘antebellum homes’ speaks to European and European-American humanity and history.
“I chose the … site as a vehicle for equalizing the history that has been omitted in tourism, books and other ways of remembering who the enslavers are,” Boxley said.
He said that Natchez happened to be the center of the slavery marketplace that is concerned with a national and international level, and the site’s presentation of its history should be comparable to that of the military park in Vicksburg.
“There needs to be the whole story, or the other half,” Boxley said. “As the book (by) Edward Baptist (says), ‘the half that has never been told.’”
Boxley will be present at the exhibit reception on Tuesday to give his statement on the significance of the historic landmark.