Events celebrate 400 year contributions of African Americans

Published 12:16 am Wednesday, October 23, 2019


NATCHEZ — Two events this weekend will celebrate the contributions of African Americans locally and nationally over 400 years between 1619 and 2019.

On Friday, Natchez will welcome the Fulani Prince Ibrahima & Isabella Freedom Foundation Inc.’s “Reflecting on America’s ‘400 Years Commemoration’ Tour” with a local historical tour and a public reception, said organizer Ser Seshsh Ab Heter-CM Boxley.

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Ibrahima was the son of the king of the Fulbe Empire who at the age of 26 was captured and enslaved before he ended up in Natchez where Thomas Foster, a plantation owner, purchased him. Ibrahima was later freed after local doctor, John Cox, recognized him as a prince from his travels to Fulbe, and Ibrahima became a celebrity and the community rallied to fund his return home.

Unfortunately, Ibrahima died before he could reach his homeland.

Ibrahima is the subject of the book “Prince Among Slaves: The True Story of an African Prince Sold into Slavery in the American South” by Terry Alford.

Friday’s events begin at 10 a.m. in the parking lot of the Natchez Visitors Center, Boxley said, where a tour bus will depart for a tour of local historical sites.

“Visit three land-based sites where first family African foreparents and ancestors were enslaved,” Boxley said. “Visit Fort Rosalie site where a coalition of the Natches Nation ‘(Indians)’ and enslaved Bambara Nation Africans annihilated the French;

Ride along the Fulani Prince Ibrahima and Isabella enslavement and freedom trail that includes King’s Tavern, Greenwood Plantation grounds; approximate area of Dr. John Cox land base; the market land base where Cox discovered the Prince selling vegetables (Cox had met him in Africa) and Natchez Under the Hill Mississippi River landing where Ibrahima departed via steamboat destined for returning to his African homeland with his American born wife and children.”

The tour also will include stops at “America’s Domestic Slave Trade” Selling Markets Sites Downtown and America’s Second largest deep southwest “domestic slave trade” selling markets sites at The Forks of the Road.

From 5 to 8 p.m. the public is invited to a free reception of Ibrahima’s descendants at the Reception at Natchez Community Room 215 Franklin Street where refreshments will be served and a dialogue about slavery and African American contributions to America, including Ibrahima’s experience, will be held.

Mayor of Natchez, Adams County Board of Supervisors, FOR Natchez, the Natchez Visitor Convention Bureau and others host the reception.

From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday, the 12th Annual Black and Blue Living History Program will be held at Historic Jefferson College, 16 Old N. St., Natchez.

“We are focusing on the black Civil War Union veterans after the Civil War as builders of the community,” Boxley said. “They had to build the community after the war. Now that they are free, they have to start up from slavery, which is what black Union veterans did here and across the nation.”

Boxley said the freed slaves became teachers, policemen, doctors and students and built the black communities after the war.

“They were the first black leaders and developers of family, citizenship, churches, schools and colleges, an agrarian economy, participatory politics, social structures, fraternal orders and benevolent societies,” Boxley said. “They were the first students, teachers, educators and agriculturists and more”

Role players will portray once enslaved but self emancipated men such as William Rochester, who was a co-founder of Beulah Baptist Church along with two other members of the Sixth U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery. There was Wilson Brown a Union navy Medal of Honor recipient who was a co-founder of Clermont Church. Henry Bell once enslaved on the Stampley Plantation out in Jefferson County who after the war became a Natchez Policeman.

“These and thousands of other civil war veterans were the contemporaries of Congressman John Lynch, U.S. Sen. Hiram Revels, Mayor Robert Wood, and Councilman Louis Winston and so on,” Boxley said. “Our Keynote presenter will be Cheryl Wilkinson, a public historian, a history graduate of University of California at Los Angles and California State University Northridge.  She has done extensive research about and is the expert on African descent Union veterans who were members of the Grand Army of the Republic Posts in Natchez Mississippi and Vidalia Louisiana.”