African American historic sites in Natchez Mississippi
The tour includes landmarks and historic sites throughout Natchez related to African American history.
This is the childhood home of Richard Wright, the African-American author of books such as Uncle Tom's Children and Black Boy. Richard is a historical figure in America who overcame being born on a plantation, living in an unstable childhood, and growing up with a sickly mother. His dreams of becoming an author began at a young age and manifested his success to an honorable status as an African-American artist. His childhood home, which is now a historic landmark, can be viewed by the public in Natchez, MS. This historic marker is located near the highway that leads into town, Natchez Park Parkway, which also contains a portion named after Wright, in his honor. The early home of Richard Wright gives it's viewers a look into the past of this legendary American author and where he first began writing.
Built during the years of 1797 and 1801, the House on Ellicott Hill belonged to Merchant planter James Moore. The home dates back to the actions of US military officer Andrew Ellicott who arrived in Natchez to survey the area according to the terms of the Treaty of San Lorenzo. Ellicott defied Spanish officials by raising the American flag on this hill. Construction of this home followed soon after and also served as a signal that Americans intended to control the area prior to the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
This historic two-story brick house was once built in the 1850s for the family of Robert D. Smith, a free black businessman who operated a livery service that transported residents throughout the city in the years leading up to the Civil War. The back of the house features the original wide arch openings and the front contains a two-story cast iron porch that was added in the 1890s. The Smith-Buntura-Evans House is a rare surviving residential architecture from the 1800s and a reminder of the role that a small but historically significant number of black business owners played in the late antebellum period.
William Johnson was a born slave in Mississippi who was later freed by his owner and became an apprentice to a black barber. William became a wealthy businessman and entrepreneur who later owned slaves himself. After his death, his diary was discovered which told the day in the life of being a wealthy black man in Mississippi. This historic house is located in downtown Natchez and once housed Johnson's large family and servants. The property also once was occupied by businesses downstairs and livestock in the back. Now a historic museum and restored, viewers can relive a day in the life of William Johnson and get a glimpse into house he once wrote about.
The Mount Locust Inn and Plantation was built in 1780 and is one of the most ancient homes still in existence in the Natchez community. The house was bought by William and Pauline Ferguson in 1784 after the original owner was imprisoned after failing to carry out a successful rebellion against the Spanish. After William died in 1801 Paulina married another man by the name of James Chamberlain, and together they maintained the plantation and house until he too died after 1810. Five generations of the family lived here until 1944. The inn served as a resting place for several people passing through the area, allowed for an escape for the people of Natchez, and relied on the service of many slaves. In 1954, the National Park Service started to remodel the home to make it resemble its former 1820 design.
One of the deadliest fires in American history occurred at this location on April 23, 1940. On that fateful evening, a crowd of around seven hundred people packed Natchez's Rhythm Night Club to listen to a famous bandleader who was set to play one night only as he made his way back to Chicago. In hopes of maximizing his income and preventing anyone from getting a free show, the manager of the club boarded up the windows and doors. As a result, the only way in or out of the club was through the front door. At that time, the club had been decorated with Spanish moss which hung from the rafters, but in order to kill the bugs that were known to live in the moss, it was sprayed with a petroleum-based insecticide called Flit. Tragically, the treated moss was flammable and helped spread a fire that killed 209 people. Many of the victims were buried in a mass grave at a cemetery on the outskirts of town. At the time, the fire was the second deadliest building fire in the United States.
After 1833, the sale of slaves was not allowed within Natchez city limits. In response, slave traders established a market for the sale of human beings at this site, known at the time as "The Forks in the Roads. Operating more like a store than an auction house, the market was shut down by Union troops during the Civil War. The site became a "contraband camp" in the final years of the war, the name given to former slaves by the Union Army who utilized these individuals for their labor. In exchange for that labor, the Union provided modest wages and protections from re-enslavement.
Built in 1860 by cotton plantation owner Haller Nutt, Longwood is the largest octagonal mansion in the nation. The house was designed by Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan in the Oriental Revival Style. Upon completion, the mansion was to total 30,000 square feet with 32 rooms, 26 fireplaces, 115 doors, and 96 columnns. However, due to the beginning of the Civil War, construction of the home was paused and Nutt settled with his wife on the basement level of the home as they awaited the war's end. Only nine of the planned rooms were ever finished. Longwood is listed as a Registered National Historic Landmark, a Mississippi Landmark, and an historic site on the Civil War Discovery Trail.