Long time coming and one more step

Published 4:00 am Friday, January 12, 2024

Next Monday is the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. At two that afternoon in the Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church you are invited to witness the official donation of a portion of the church owned MLK Triangle to the City for the future development of the Hiram Rhodes Revels Plaza, a future city park at the gateway to Historic Downtown Natchez.

This proposed park as a future public space named after Hiram Revels has been a long time coming. Naming the Triangle after Revels is an obvious choice. It is past time.

Hiram Revels was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1827 as a free man. In 1845, Revels was ordained as a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. He then served as a preacher and teacher throughout the Midwest.

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He studied religion from 1855 to 1857 at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. As a chaplain in the US Army, he helped organize two black regiments during the Civil War. In 1866, he became the pastor of Natchez’s Zion Chapel AME Church. His political career began in 1868 as a Natchez Alderman. In 1869, he was elected to the State Senate, and in 1870 he became a US Senator and the country’s first black Congressman. He was the first president of Alcorn.

The Triangle is owned by the Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church and the church is donating to the city a portion of the land, not the structure there though, to be re-imagined into a space that welcomes visitors and residents alike to downtown, signifies the tremendous impact that area of town has had on the whole of Natchez and commemorate Hiram Revels. I’ll suggest that the northern gateway to Natchez is the way many Mississippians enter the city and into downtown. It is the way my map program took me when coming from Yalobusha. Just saying.

The idea for re-imaging the Triangle and the area around it, the rejuvenation of a once prosperous business zone has been the wish of many for a long time. The City’s Downtown Master Plan of May 2018 features on its cover a drawing of how the plaza will look. You should visit the Master Plan see for yourself. Go to the City’s website and at the top under Business Resources click and then click on the Planning & Community Development page. A link to the Downtown Master Plan is at the top. Pages seventy-seven to eighty-eight are about the Triangle area. While you are there take a glance at the Master Plan and see the rest. The plan came about via city-wide input and effort to move Natchez forward. It is worth a re-read.

Following the ceremony, please stick around and enjoy the MLK Day Parade from the steps of the church.

Mickey Howley is the executive director of the Downtown Natchez Alliance and can be reached at mickey@natchezDNA.org or 601 443-3350.