Progress at Forks of the Road worth celebrating

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, June 22, 2021

It’s hard to think of a more moving history demonstration than the one by Natchez National Historical Park employee Barney Schoby Jr. on the eve of Juneteenth on Friday at Forks of the Road.

Dressed in the dark blue jacket and pants of a U.S. Colored Troop soldier on a hot June afternoon, Schoby gave a passionate presentation that captivated an audience of approximately 100 people who there to witness the transfer of deeds to the city-owned land at Forks of the Road to the National Park Service.

Perhaps it wasn’t just Schoby’s words that moved the audience, but perhaps the realization of the pain, devastation and victory that occurred on the same ground where they stood.

“The ground that you stand on today is holy,” Schoby began. “It is in possession of all those that have come here to pay homage to the slaves that left these buildings to become USCT soldiers, to return in 1864 to demolish this place, to remove it … but it will always be part of our history.”

The same men who were bought and sold at Forks of the Road, ripped apart from families and forced into a life of unpaid labor, later returned as soldiers to dismantle it and use the timbers to build Fort McPherson during the Civil War.

The irony of it seemed to sizzle in the air as people gathered to witness the beginning of a park dedicated to telling that story.

Unfortunately, not everyone is pleased. Some hold on grudgingly to the events of the past — and some do so justly. It’s impossible to look at a person and determine how they’ve been wronged and it’s not our place to judge. Racial injustice continues to occur across the nation even to this day.

However, instead of scoffing at the many attempts to right the wrongs of the past, we as one people — Black and white — should realize when it’s time to celebrate progress.

While it’s impossible to delete all of the hate in the world, it is possible to let go of hate within ourselves. That is the only way to move forward.