As the birthplace to some of history’s most talented authors and musicians, Mississippi offers the chance to learn their stories
Mississippi, with its expansive culture stemming from centuries of history, defines what Americans say when we refer to the country as a “melting pot” of cultural and ethnic identity. It’s the birthplace of the blues, a battleground for the Civil Rights movement, the home of literature legends, and so much more. Discovering these trails can be an easily accessible activity to fit into your group’s reunion itinerary, with cultural markers distributed in every corner of the state.
Mississippi Blues Trail
Being that Mississippi is the birthplace of the blues, this trail is the most expansive of the living museums. To see where it all began, visit Dockery Farms, where the first blues musicians Henry Sloan and Charley Patton resided. Fans of B.B. King should explore markers in Indianola, where the “King of the Blues” grew up and had his first performances at Club Ebony.
Rural juke joints played a huge role in the cultural development surrounding blues music. Po’ Monkeys, in Merigold, was one of the last running juke joints in rural Mississippi before it closed in 2016, but the shack still stands as a historic landmark on the trail.
Elvis Presley grew up in the heart of blues country in Tupelo, Mississippi and was inspired throughout his childhood by the region’s artists, including guitarist Lonnie Williams. Elvis became famous in the music scene because of his blending of blues into his stylings of rock-and-roll and country, creating a distinct style of his own. His house in Tupelo is preserved as a marker on the Blues Trail.
In order to navigate through these landmarks and access exclusive content, sponsors of the trail created the Mississippi Blues Trail app, which is available on IOS and Android.
Mississippi Freedom Trail
The deep-rooted past of slavery and Jim Crow laws in Mississippi made the state a battleground for justice during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Much of the activism in the state was inspired by the abduction and murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was visiting family in Money, Mississippi. Several markers to visit that commemorate his tragedy include the Tallahatchie County Courthouse where the murder trial took place, and the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center.
In Jackson, your group can visit the historic Greyhound Bus Station, where Freedom Riders were arrested upon arrival during their demonstrations of the 1960s. You can explore the legacy of these freedom riders more at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, also in Jackson.
Canton is another town that is a must-visit for your group. It was in this town that hosted Freedom Summer in 1964, an event that sponsored education, activism and voter registration in the Black community, despite the hostility of white residents.
Country Music Trail
Mississippi’s country music artists defined the genre and spread their innovations across the country. Jimmie Rodgers, who was born and raised in Meridian, Mississippi, is known to have developed the heart and soul of country, singing about life in the south, family, and holding on to tradition in the fast-changing world. Faith Hill, the modern-day country pop superstar, has her roots in Jackson, Mississippi where her love for country was cultivated by the city’s culture of music. After she moved to Nashville to pursue her dreams, she still honored her roots though her songs like “Mississippi Girl.”
Mississippi Writers Trail
Launched in 2018, the Mississippi Writers Trail will take your group across the state to explore the birthplaces and meaningful locations of the state’s most prominent writers. Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi and, after the Civil War, became one of the country’s most prominent female journalists. Her marker is located at Rust College, the university she attended in Mississippi.
William Faulkner, Nobel Prize winner and author of classics The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying and A Fable, moved with his family to Mississippi as a child. He depicts themes of class, race, and history through his depictions of fictional Yoknapatawpha County, based on Lafayette County, where he spent most of his life. His marker is placed at his estate, Rowan Oak, in Oxford Mississippi.
Mississippi Mound Trail
Lining the western border of Mississippi is one of the largest tracts of preserved remains of burial mounds from past civilizations. After these sites had been eroded, looted, and destroyed for modern development for decades, this trail has sought to preserve and upkeep the mounds that are still left. For groups with a busy schedule, exploring this trail is fairly easy, as you can see many of these mounds right off to the side of major highways. And, if you decide to pull off the highway to get a closer look, there are location markers nearby to tell the history of these mounds through archeological excavations.
By Isabella Wilkes