Celebrate Black Excellence and Black History in JXN
Jackson's history as a destination central to the Civil Rights movement means that generations of exceptional Black Mississippians have contributed to make the city what it is today.
Leaders and activists like NAACP field secretary Medgar Evans, poet and professor Margaret Walker, and legendary writer Richard Wright paved the way for Black excellence in Jackson. The legacy they created lives on in the dozens of Black businesses, restaurants, and community organizations that define Jackson. With Black History Month upon us, there’s no better time to plan a trip to the city that celebrates Black history and excellence year-round.
It’s easy to work up an appetite while exploring Jackson, so when it’s time to break for some food, head to a local Black-owned restaurant.
Whether you’re in the mood for authentic soul food, Caribbean eats, Cajun cuisine, or even a pig-ear sandwich, Jackson’s restaurant scene has you covered.
James Beard award-winning Bully’s Soul Food has all the classics from turkey necks and greens to fried green tomatoes and neckbones. For a taste of the Caribbean, Godfrey’s is your spot. Be sure to order the jerk chicken and Reggae punch. At Sugar’s Place Downtown, have a classic meat-and-three experience with everything from chicken and waffles to fried catfish. They also have a delicious hearty breakfast for those looking to jumpstart their day with plenty of fuel.
Since Mississippi is known for its Creole influence, find a true taste of the Bayou at 1693 Red Zone Grill or Johnny T’s Bistro & Blues. And of course, no trip to Jackson is complete without a meal at Big Apple Inn. Owned by a first-generation Mexican immigrant family, the restaurant was a popular meeting place for Freedom Riders and even hosted meetings held by Medgar Evans in its basement. The legendary restaurant is known for its tamales and signature pig ear sandwiches. For the handheld masterpiece, pig ears are pressure cooked until tender then served on a bun with homemade hot sauce, slaw, and mustard. They’re a rite of passage in Mississippi culture and well worth their miniscule $1.70 price tag.
On Farish Street, a historic district that once was the undisputed hub for Jackson’s Black community, you can still find original businesses that graced the streets in the ‘50s, as well as new ones that are carrying the torch for Black businesses in Jackson today. Marshall’s Music & Bookstore continues to make history as the country’s oldest continuously operated Black-owned bookshop, making it a must-experience destination. And, if you head downtown, you’ll discover Lavish Boutique, a fashionable spot for ladies of all tastes.
Elsewhere in the city, other Black business owners help the city shine with thriving boutiques and retail stores that show off the city’s soul. Phillip Rollins, also known as DJ Young Venom, offers records, toys, comics, and space for the creative community at Offbeat, his alternative art and apparel store in Midtown. Lofton + Co. provides the city with small-batch handmade candles, wax melts, soaps, and body scrubs. And, once a month in season, the Magnolia Sunset Market - a curated lineup of mostly Black artisan vendors - sets up shop at Foot Print Farms, run by banker-turned-farmer, Cindy Ayers-Elliot.
While there are plenty of new businesses to explore in Jackson, an equally important part of experiencing the city is taking time to reflect upon its rich history.
From the city’s Civil Rights Museum to lesser-known landmarks and points of interest along the Mississippi Freedom Trail, there’s plenty to explore in Jackson when it comes to Civil Rights. The city even curated a Civil Rights Google Map that notes several places of interest on the Freedom Trail as well as other Civil Rights sites. If you don’t have time to check off every location on the list, here are some places to start.
Explore the movement that changed the nation through eight interactive exhibits that tell the story of the people and places of Jackson’s Civil Rights movement. The exhibits focus on events that happened between 1945-1976 and all encircle a central space called This Little Light of Mine where a dramatic sculpture lights up the area. They galleries kick off with the Mississippi Freedom Struggle that sets the stage for the Civil Rights movement, then continue with the Mississippi in Black and White gallery that focuses on the years 1865 to 1941 through stories and artifacts from those who lived during the time. The galleries progress through the years and end with exhibits themed around Black empowerment and focusing on the future.
Named one of CNN’s 50 States, 50 Spots in 2014, the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center is a must-visit landmark in Mississippi. The site of Jackson’s first school for Black children in 1894 now serves as a museum and cultural center dedicated to teaching the public about the African American experience in the Deep South. Permanent exhibits include galleries on African American lifestyle in Mississippi, African treasures, Mississippi’s historically black colleges and universities, notable Black Mississippians, and the Civil Rights Movement in Jackson. Located within walking distance of several other businesses and attractions, as well as the State Capitol building in downtown Jackson, it’s the ideal place to spend an afternoon learning about Jackson’s history.
Visit the home of Civil Rights icon Medgar Evers, a WWII veteran and Mississippi’s field secretary for the NAACP, who spent his life working to desegregate higher education, expand voting rights, and grow economic opportunity for Black Mississippians. Edgars was assassinated in his driveway in 1963 by a Ku Klux Klan member. His home is now designated as an African American Civil Rights Network site as a testament to the sacrifices he made for the cause as an activist and organizer.
To see the full picture of Civil Rights in Mississippi, plan to make as many stops as possible along the Mississippi Freedom Trail. Locations include the Greyhound Bus Station where Freedom Riders were famously met by state police; Jackson State University; HBCU Tougaloo College; and the site of a sit-in at Woolworth’s department store. The Mississippi State Capitol, where the “March Against Fear” rally was held in 1966, is also part of the historic trail.
Explore the nine-block Farish Street District that was once a thriving hub for Black-owned businesses and community. In post-war 1947, Farish Street was bustling with activity and life. Though the district is much quieter today, visitors can learn all about its livelier past through commemorative markers that celebrate Farish Street’s glory days. Be sure to see the Alamo Theater and Trumpet Records, two institutions that carry the torch for Farish Street as it experiences a promising renaissance.
For more information on how to pay homage to the Civil Rights movement and celebrate the many contributions Black Americans have made in Jackson and beyond, head to https://www.visitjackson.com.