April 27 – May 9
For our one full day in Jackson, we’d originally planned to tour the state capital building but soon discovered that it being Saturday, that option was out as the facility was closed. Instead, we started with, and spent a full morning at, the Mississippi Ag and Forestry Museum, a 39-acre museum and living history institution that opened in the late 1970’s.
From the 1820s until recent decades, Mississippi agriculture, and that of much of the South, was centered around the production of cotton. During the antebellum period, cotton was viewed as the social and economic focus of life. The wealth of planters was consumed in the purchase of land, slaves, tariffs, freight costs, and commissions. Little money found its way into Mississippi towns, and by the 1860s, the typical town was little more than a nebulous cluster of mercantile and service establishments.
We spent more than an hour in the museum checking out various exhibits on catfish (Mississippi is one of the biggest producers), timber harvesting, cotton growing and ginning and a host of other subjects related to the agricultural output of the state. Taking up quite a bit of square footage were three large model train layouts with volunteers manning the controls. The attention to detail in these were outstanding, small towns brought to life before your eyes.
By the 1920s crossroad towns flourished as a combination of railroads, automobiles, agriculture, forestry, and social developments converged. These small towns generally included a general store, filling station, cotton gin, sawmill, blacksmiths shop, and grist mill. Professionals such as doctors and journalists began to open offices in many of the towns, and most had one or more churches, and reforms in education encouraged the construction of schools.
We spent the next hour or more outside, touring the grounds and various buildings mentioned above and then finished up at the Fortenberry-Parkman Farmstead, designated a Mississippi Landmark. It dates back to 1860 and includes most of the original buildings moved from Jefferson Davis County, where it was in operation for over 100 years. It’s always fascinating to see how people lived more than a century again, how much different their daily lives were from ours and in the end, how much easier we have it today.
We left the museum and drove downtown although our original idea of touring the statehouse was off as the building is closed on the weekends.
We circled the block a couple of times in order to line up a good picture, and then parked nearby to take in the Jackson Greyhound Bus Station, famous as the site of many arrests during the May 1961 Freedom Rides of the Civil Rights Movement. The Art Deco building was acquired by architect Robert Parker Adams in 1988 whose firm restored the station’s exterior and interior.
A short drive then took us to the Medgar Evers house, home to Medgar and Myrlie Evers who were partners in the civil rights struggle. Medgar was assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens’ Council in Jackson, a group formed in 1954 in Mississippi to resist the integration of schools and civil rights activism.
His murder and the resulting trials inspired civil rights protests, and numerous works of art, music, and film, and it became a catalyst for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although all-white juries failed to reach verdicts in Beckwith’s first two trials in the 1960s, he was convicted in 1994 based on new evidence. Myrlie Evers continues to promote issues of racial equality and social justice.
We had one more stop that day and that would be to visit the home of Eudora Welty, the American short story writer, novelist, and photographer, who wrote about the American South. Her novel The Optimist’s Daughter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 and she received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Order of the South. Her house has been designated as a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public as a house museum.
Eudora lived in this house for the bulk of her life and like the Carl Sandburg home in North Carolina, left it “as is” upon her passing. Thus, it truly represents what her day-to-day life was like and gives a glimpse into the person behind the titles. Unfortunately, taking pictures is not allowed inside the home which is a shame as it was a very good tour, administered by a docent who clearly admired her subject.
We finished up in town and drove back out to Richland for a quiet evening with laundry on our mind. When on the road for extended periods of time, the task of washing one’s clothes becomes one of timing, convenience, and opportunity. We’ve found that more and more chains like Best Western have guest laundry facilities and it is also one of the more important attributes I look for in an Airbnb.
For dinner that night we ate in by ordering food to go from nearby Bangkok Thai Cuisine, less than a mile away. We would eat almost all of an order of Pad See Yu with Tofu (stir fried with sweet soy glaze, egg, nappas, carrots and broccoli) and the Bangkok Stir Fried with Chicken (Stir fried onions, carrots, bell peppers, pineapple, mushrooms, and cashew nuts in a light Thai sauce) along with an order of egg rolls.
The next morning, I was exceedingly glad that we’d eaten so much the night before as the breakfast offerings at the Best Western were sparse, which would later leave room for a donut at that place just down the road we’d discovered. The one aspect of the breakfast room that to me personified the lackluster features of this lodging was the single, solitary, less than adequate trash can offered for our use. Then again, given the sparse options offered, I’m sure there wasn’t much trash generated.
Mississippi Ag and Forestry Museum: https://www.msagmuseum.org/
Medgar Evers Home: https://civilrightstrail.com/attraction/medgar-evers-home/
Eudora Welty: https://eudorawelty.org/biography/
Bangkok Thai Cuisine: https://www.bangkokthaicuisinems.com/