Zion Chapel trustees convey property for Hiram Revels Plaza

Published 12:50 pm Friday, January 26, 2024

NATCHEZ — Hiram Revels Plaza came a step closer to reality Thursday night.

At a ceremony at Zion Chapel AME Church, church leaders and trustees signed over ownership of a portion of the property known as The Triangle to the City of Natchez.

“We consider it an honor to give this gift, a portion of The Triangle, to the City of Natchez for the purpose of creating a community park in honor of Hiram Revels to be called Hiram Revels Plaza, a place the community and the city will be proud of,” said Norma West, trustee of Zion Chapel.

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Hiram Revels became pastor of Zion Chapel in Natchez in 1866. Later, he became a Natchez alderman and a member of the Mississippi Senate.

On Feb. 25, 1871, Revels became the first Black U.S. Senator to ever be seated in that branch of government.

“A year ago, I was on a trip to Washington, D.C., on a rainy day like today, with county supervisor Warren Gaines. We made our way into the original Senate chamber,” Gibson said. “There was a security guard there and a lot of other tourists, including a lot of young people, who were looking, but nothing was being said.

“I asked the security guard if I could say a few words and he told me yes. I told them about a man from Natchez, Mississippi, Hiram Revels, who was seated as the first African American member of Congress in that very chamber,” Gibson said. “It took a month-long battle to seat this man. The Senate wasn’t ready to this this man. But one by one, they came around, and all but four voted to seat Hiram Revels as a member of the U.S. Senate.

“At that time, Charles Sumner, a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, said it was in honor of our great declaration, which says all men are created equal, that we can finally live up to those words as we seat a man of color in this great Chamber,” Gibson paraphrased. “What he was really saying was, ‘It’s about time.’ You could hear a pin drop in that Chamber that day. Those young people, and even the security guard,” hung on every word of the story.

“If you go to the capitol now, you will see no mention of Hiram Revels. But we are about to take care of that in Natchez. Thanks to the Friends of the Riverfront and to Norma West, who never gave up,” he said. “There will be a major park in Natchez dedicated to him right at the front door of the church.”

The church is retaining ownership of the building that houses Don Gordon’s Barber Shop, Gibson said.

“I hope that gets quoted because Don’s Barber Shop has to continue,” he said.

Gibson said the gift of the property is very similar to the gift of the Duncan Park property to the city.

“Just as Duncan Park, the city can never sell this piece of property. It is to be used to honor Hiram Revels, and if at any time the city goes back on that agreement, the property reverts back to the ownership of the church,” he said.