Jackson is home to iconic figures who shaped the culture of Mississippi and the rest of the world. Civil Rights heroes, acclaimed writers, sports legends, influential artists, and renowned entrepreneurs all spent time in the City With Soul shaping the fabric of society. To honor this illustrious group, let’s take you on a journey to the places that each icon impacted.
The boldly colored painting, created by Visit Jackson's Creative Design Manager, Reshonda Perryman, is located on the back wall of the Old Capitol Inn on North Street,
There is a movement taking place in the City of Jackson where we're creating a sense of place. And now we're recognizing these beautiful icons of our city that have done such a magnificent job of representing us in what we hold dear and important. Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba
The second phase of the JXN Icons series celebrates nine additional heroes, visionaries, and legends of Mississippi's capital city.
Explore the homes, museums, schools, venues, and historic sites each icon touched.
Margaret Walker Alexander
Margaret Walker Alexander (July 7, 1915 – November 30, 1998) was an award-winning American poet and writer, part of Chicago’s African American literary movement, known as the Chicago Black Renaissance. Walker married and moved to Jackson, MS, in 1943, later becoming a literature professor at Jackson State University, a historically black college, where she taught from 1949 to 1979. In 1968, Walker founded the Institute for the Study of History, Life, and Culture of Black People (now the Margaret Walker Center), and her papers are now stored there. In 1976, she went on to serve as the institute’s director.
Lavell William Crump (born April 11, 1974), known professionally as David Banner, is an American rapper, record producer, activist, and actor. Raised in Jackson, MS, Banner is a graduate of Provine High School. In addition to his numerous hip-hop award nominations, Banner has been the recipient of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators’ Visionary Award for his humanitarian work in response to Hurricane Katrina. Banner signed to Universal Records in 2003, releasing four albums: Mississippi: The Album; MTA2: Baptized in Dirty Water; Certified, and The Greatest Story Ever Told.
Medgar Wiley Evers (July 2, 1925 – June 12, 1963) was an American civil rights activist in Jackson, MS, the state’s first field secretary for the NAACP, and a World War II veteran who served in the United States Army. He worked to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi, end the segregation of public facilities, and expand opportunities for African Americans, which included the enforcement of voting rights. His death was the first murder of a nationally significant leader of the American Civil Rights Movement. It heightened public awareness of civil rights issues and became a catalyst for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Built in 1956, Medgar and Myrlie Evers’ home was the site of his assassination and is now listed as a National Historical monument.
Thalia Mara Mahoney (née Elizabeth Simons - June 28, 1911 – October 8, 2003) was an American ballet dancer and educator who authored 11 books on the subject. As the daughter of Russian immigrants, Mara began her performance career in Chicago and later moved to Jackson, MS, where she helped found the USA International Ballet Competition and the Thalia Mara Arts International Foundation. In recognition of her contributions, in 1994, the Jackson, Mississippi Municipal Auditorium was renamed Thalia Mara Hall. Every four years, Jackson, Mississippi, welcomes ballet dancers from all over the world as the American host
for the International Ballet Competition.
James Howard Meredith (born June 25, 1933) is an American civil rights figure, writer, political adviser, Air Force veteran, and the first African American student admitted to the racially segregated University of Mississippi. Inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, Meredith decided to exercise his constitutional rights and apply to the university. His goal was to put pressure on the Kennedy administration to enforce civil rights for African Americans. In 1966, Meredith planned a solo 220-mile March Against Fear from Memphis, TN, to Jackson, MS, highlighting continuing racism in the South and encouraging voter registration. The second day, he was shot by a white gunman. He suffered numerous wounds, later continuing and leading an estimated 15,000 marchers in Mississippi’s largest civil rights march. More than 4,000 African Americans registered to vote during the march, and it was a catalyst to continued community organizing and additional registration.
Dorothy Moore (born October 13, 1946) is an award-winning American blues, gospel, and R&B singer best known for her 1976 hit song, “Misty Blue.” Moore began her singing career at a young age performing in the church choir and was offered a recording contract after consistently winning the Wednesday night talent contests held at the Alamo Theater located in the Historic Farish Street District. Moore became a member of the vocal group The Poppies while attending Jackson State University, reaching number 56 on the Billboard Top 100 chart in 1966. Years later, her career took off after recording several ballads for Malaco Records in the 1970s. Moore started the record label Farish Street Records in 2002. The label is named to honor Farish Street, the home to live and juke blues music in the neighborhood where Moore was raised.
Walter Jerry Payton (July 25, 1954 – November 1, 1999), a Columbia, Mississippi native and Jackson State University Alum, was a professional football player in the National Football League. He was drafted number four by the Chicago Bears, where he played all 13 seasons of his career. During that time, he was regarded as the greatest and most versatile football player of all time and a nine-time Pro Bowl selectee. Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame that same year, and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996, Payton was described by Hall of Fame NFL player and coach Mike Ditka as “the greatest football player he had ever seen—but even greater as a human being.”
Angie Thomas (born September 20, 1988) is an award-winning Young Adult author. While earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Belhaven University, she was the first Black teenager to graduate from her creative writing course. Born and raised in Jackson, MS, Thomas views writing as a form of activism. Through her work, she aims to provide readers with a glimpse into a world they may not have known about otherwise, pointing out the opportunity to promote empathy. Thomas’ most notable book, “The Hate U Give,” debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Seller list for young adult hardcover books within the first week of its release.
In 1961, 13-year-old Hezekiah Watkins was arrested at the Greyhound Bus Station in Jackson and taken to Parchman Prison as the youngest of the Freedom Riders. In 1962, Watkins was arrested for marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Jackson, and the two shared a jail cell. Watkins estimates that he was arrested more than 100 times in the 1960s. His mugshot, along with those of hundreds of other Freedom Riders, lines the walls of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. The young advocate played an integral role in organizing demonstrations and participating in marches throughout Mississippi.
This one doesn’t follow the same format and include his birthdate at the beginning. That may need changing.
Eudora Alice Welty (April 13, 1909 – July 23, 2001) was an American short story writer, novelist, and photographer who wrote about the American South. Welty received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for The Optimist’s Daughter, the National Book Award for Fiction for The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Order of the South. She was the first living author to have her works published by the Library of America. Welty’s home has been designated as a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public.
Hal & Mal White
Opened in 1985, the former Merchants Company warehouse turned restaurant and music venue became ground zero for revitalizing Downtown Jackson. Hal & Mal’s iconic restaurant was conceived by brothers Harold (March 13, 1949 – March 28, 2013) and Malcolm White (March 3, 1951). The restaurant was a mutual dream, reinforced by years of experience working in the hospitality and entertainment industries. While simultaneously building up their food and music offerings, Hal & Mal’s built up its local community, always happy to participate in fundraisers. The brothers eventually launched Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade, the most successful fundraiser of them all that still continues to this day.
Richard Nathaniel Wright (September 4, 1908 – November 28, 1960) was an American author of novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerns racial themes, especially related to the plight of African Americans during the late 19th to mid-20th centuries suffering discrimination and violence. Literary critics believe his work helped change race relations in the United States in the mid-20th century. Wright attended Jackson’s first public school for African Americans, now known as the Smith Robertson School Museum and Cultural Center. Notable works include Uncle Tom’s Children, Native Son, Black Boy, and The Outsider.
Margaret Walker Center
An outstanding Twentieth Century African-American, the late Dr. Margaret Walker Alexander had a 50-year career as a published writer. Dr. Alexander received the National Education Association Senior Fellowship Award for Lifetime Achievement and Contributions to American Literature in 1991. Two of her many books received national acclaim: the best-seller Jubilee and For My People. The City of Jackson renamed the street on which Dr. Alexander lived in her honor, as well as a Jackson Public Library. She served 30 years at JSU, establishing and serving as the director of the Institute for the Study of History, Life and Culture of Black People. Upon her retirement, the center was renamed the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center. The center addresses life in the Civil Rights Movement era. Other topics include African-American migration, the Head Start Programs, education, health care, business, rural life, home ownership, churches, night life, the legal profession, military life, and music - blues, jazz, gospel, spiritual and classical. The center is housed in the historic Ayer Hall, built in 1903.
Medgar & Myrlie Evers Home National Monument
Evers was the first field secretary for the NAACP in Jackson at the time of his death, June 12, 1963. The small house and site of his assassination, and the neighborhood of similar houses that surround it, make palpable the very simple longings for freedom and opportunity that drove the Civil Rights Movement. As a museum and a house in a historic district, the renovated structure informs those who visit of the many sacrifices that took place in Jackson and in Mississippi, and presents a modern link in the succession of Mississippi landmarks that communicate the history of the state. The home is now a National Park Service site.
Thalia Mara Hall
A venue for education and entertainment by a variety of locally, nationally, and internationally known performers including ballet; opera and symphony performances; plays; concerts; and presentations by local performing arts organizations.
Mississippi State Capitol
Designated a Mississippi Landmark in 1986 and a National Historic Landmark in 2016, the Mississippi State Capitol has been the seat of the state’s government since 1903. Tours detail its history and Beaux Arts-style architecture and provide an up-close look inside the chambers of the Senate and House of Representatives.
The Alamo is located in the historic Farish Street District. The present structure recently underwent a complete renovation. The first structure was located on Farish Street in the 100 block across from where McCoy Federal Building now stands. The second Alamo was located on West Amite Street at Roach Street. This newly renovated structure (the third) was built in the early 1940's in this Farish Street Historic District. It was designated a National Historic Register Landmark. The District was the Mecca of a thriving Black professional and trade community before desegregation. The building functioned as a cinema featuring "chase westerns" and African American films. The facility also served as a performing arts theater featuring Black Vaudeville acts, stage bands, and Black performing artists. The historic Alamo Theater, 300 North Farish Street was one of the last Dual Purpose Theaters in the United States. Realizing the historic significance and its importance to the revitalization of the Farish Street Historic District, in 1992 Sunburst Bank donated the Alamo Theater to the Mississippi Association for the Preservation of Smith Robertson School. During the 1993 Regular Legislative Session $1.5 million was allocated for the renovation of the facility. Restoration of the theater will provide a needed focal point for the revitalization of the historic neighborhood and its potential for Heritage Tourism, as well as meet the need for a small theater in downtown Jackson available for rental to small audience productions.
Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum
Mississippi's first museum for the 21st century contains an array of interactive exhibits. Touch-screen television kiosks allow museum visitors to access archival footage, achievement data, biographical information, and more than 500 interviews with famous Mississippi athletes like Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Archie Manning, Ralph Boston, and Dizzy Dean. Reservations requested for group tours. Hours: Monday-Saturday 10 am-4 pm. Admission: Adults $5, Children and Seniors $3.50. Group Rate Available for 12 people or more.
Founded in 1883, today, the University has achieved the distinction of being among only 36 universities nationally accredited in each of the major arts—music, theatre, visual art and dance. The science curriculum is one of only two Christian universities recognized by the White House STEM Initiative. The University’s 15 athletic teams compete in the NCAA Division III.
Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum shares the stories of a Mississippi movement that changed the nation. Through eight interactive exhibits the museum promotes a greater understanding of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and its impact by highlighting the strength and sacrifices of its peoples.
Eudora Welty House and Garden
Hal and Mal’s
A breezily Gulf Coast-centric menu and a busy bar that keeps the spirits in action, Hal & Mal’s is a colorful, funky glimpse at the Capital City’s lunch-time, after-hours and weekend life.
Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center
Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center is a comprehensive depository of artifacts portraying African-American Misissippians’ experience in the fields of history, art, music and literature. The museum was originally Smith Robertson Elementary School, the first public school for African-American children in the city of Jackson.