Blues Man McKinney Williams and I set out on Wednesday with our destination set on Port Gibson, Mississippi, a day with clear, blue sky and mild weather. We drove the Natchez Trace and arrived in downtown Port Gibson to meet our guide for the day, Mr. Milton Chambliss. Milton is the Executive Director for the Claiborne County Economic Development District.
We met Milton on the town square and made our way to his offices on Main Street. The lobby of the Claiborne County building is full of interpretive displays and historical artifacts of the local history. Famous musicians and community leaders have their photos and stories there as well as many of the pictures and stories of the civil rights protests and the struggle for equality under the law and black Americans. We were welcome to the second floor where Milton proceeded to share the County website developed by his office to help attract business and tourism to the area, in particular the interactive components to discover the historical homes, Blues Trail and Civil War sites, along with dining, shopping, lodging and camping options in the area: http://www.claiborneworks.com/
Milton is very keen on sharing the Civil War history of Claiborne County with the world, as his Great-Grandfather served in the Colored Troops infantry with the U.S. Army during the Vicksburg Campaign. http://claiborneworks.com/index.php/tourism/civil_war/ Milton and I have discussed the Civil War period of Mississippi many times, as my ancestors also served during the War, on the Confederate side.
Our tour of the city began across Market Street at the Mississippi Cultural Crossroads, where Mrs. Dotson and the ladies do quilting. The handmade quilts on display are wonderful, colorful expressions and are hanging throughout the building. There is a ballroom in the Mississippi Cultural Crossroads facility, most recently hosting a Madri Gras party for the young people in town. http://www.msculturalcrossroads.org/
Our next stop is the local newspaper,The Port Gibson Reveille, serving Claiborne County since 1876. Here we met Mrs. Emma Crisler, the Publisher & Editor. She kindly took our photo and collected some of the story about the 2015 Blues Artist of the Year and the Mississippi BBQ Trail for a story in her paper. We walked together down Market Street to see the Blues Trail marker for the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, a traveling music troupe headquartered in Port Gibson. This African-American entertainers traveled the South from 1918 to 1950, traveling mostly by private train car, performing comedy skits and song-and-dance that spawned many of the entertainment forms in America, including vaudeville. http://www.msbluestrail.com/blues-trail-markers/rabbit-foot-minstrels
We next make our way to the historic City Hall. http://claiborneworks.com/index.php/interactive_map/attractions
The Mayor of Port Gibson, The Honorable Fred D. Reeves, Sr. greeted the three of us and we gathered in the lobby to meet his staff. Here we discussed the Heritage Festival now being planned for Saturday, March 21, 2015 in downtown Port Gibson Main Street. Activities for the day, include a 5k walk-run, arts and crafts, childrens activities, guided tours of historic sites and the original Mississippi Venison Cook-off. The venison cooking sounds to me like a great reason to attend! Here is a link for this event: http://www.craftlister.com/E1702970 This is a super-cool photo Mayor Reeves has of a classic parked along side the mural on the south exterior wall of the Mississippi Cultural Crossroads.
A local promoter, Esselean Burks Gordon, happened to be in City Hall and we were pleased to make her acquaintance. Ms. Gordon has the “Turn It Up a Notch” Concert event being held at the Claiborne County Fairgrounds on Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 2 p.m. This will be an uplifting gospel music festival and local talent should contact Ms. Gordon for an audition, held on Saturday, March 21st at 2 p.m.
Now we head south on Hwy 61 to discover more on the Mississippi BBQ Trail.