Promoting Natchez’s rich cultural heritage

Published 4:41 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2022

A local man asked me about Visit Natchez and my work as the cultural heritage tourism manager. Specifically, he wanted to know what my job entailed. In a nutshell, I told him, I do a little bit of everything that’s related to the city’s cultural history. Then I gave him three things to consider, which I summarized as follows:

  1. I work with individuals and institutions to help them discover their story. This includes researching their rich cultural heritage.
  2. I assist them in telling their story. This includes writing, publication, and preservation.
  3. I assist them in promoting their story. Promotion, as we all know, is essential.

This list did not cover my entire job description, but it gave him an idea about the nature of my work. That said, I want to give a brief overview of some of the things I’ve done over the past year, beginning with the museums.

We’ve been working with The Rhythm Night Club Memorial Museum, The Dr. John Banks House, and the Natchez Museum of African American History & Culture aka NAPAC Museum. Last year, we assisted all three of them in writing grants that resulted in more than $30,000 being awarded by the Mississippi Humanities Council.

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I write press releases about Natchez history and cultural events on a regular basis. These press reports appear in local, regional, and sometimes national publications. Last December, I wrote a press release about the “Black Butterfly” exhibit at NAPAC Museum that was picked up by The Associated Press. As a result, the story went national. The same story later appeared in Today in Mississippi Magazine.

I also pitch ideas to national publications. Last year, for example, I sent a query letter about the Rhythm Night Club to Good Grit Magazine. The editor assigned me to write a 1,500-word article, which I did. It was published in the May 2022 issue of the magazine. In April this year, Bobby Dennis and I co-authored an article about NAPAC Museum for Arkansas Review journal.

In my efforts to promote tourism, I also travel to pitch ideas to tourism professionals. Earlier this year, I attended the African American Tourism Conference in Topeka, Kansas. There, I got to speak with 40 contacts in the travel industry.

One exciting part of my job is community engagement through public speaking and volunteer work on various committees. I serve on the Natchez U.S. Colored Troops Monument Committee, where I chair the Marketing/PR Subcommittee. In this role, my team and I have produced press releases, created a Facebook group, designed a website, and assisted with fundraising projects.

Additionally, I’m part of the Natchez Civil Rights Trail Committee. And I’m happy to say that this committee succeeded in having Natchez listed on the Mississippi Freedom Trail and the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.

In sharing these milestones, I must admit that none of them would have been possible without the support of the Visit Natchez team and our partners.

In closing, I want to borrow a concept from Robert Fulghum, author of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” In my case, I can honestly say that some of the things I know about tourism, I learned in my childhood. As a kid growing up in the Mississippi Delta, my friends and I would hunt for buried treasure. Whenever we found something of interest, we would call out to everybody and say, “Hey guys! Come see what I found.”

That is what I’m doing today. When I find a good story or an enchanting piece of history, I call out to people everywhere and say, “Come see what I found. Come and see what Natchez has to offer.”

Roscoe Barnes III, Ph.D., is the cultural heritage tourism manager for Visit Natchez.