By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau on Tuesday announced the development of the Heritage Trails Enrichment Program aimed at educating residents and visitors about the cultural history of the area.
The new project, to launch in the spring, will identify sites associated with historically significant eras in the Tupelo-Lee County area related to the Chickasaw Nation, Civil War and civil rights.
“This is not only a good thing to do, it is the right thing to do,” said Mayor Jack Reed Jr.
The CVB is working closely with Chickasaw Nation Executive Director Kirk Perry as well as the National Park Service. The Chickasaw Nation tour will begin at the Chief Piomingo statue in Tupelo’s Fairpark District.
The idea to include a civil rights trail occurred to CVB Executive Director Neal McCoy when he was asked by the Mississippi Development Authority to come up with a few submissions of historically significant sites around Tupelo for the Mississippi Freedom Trail, the state’s tour of civil rights points of interest. McCoy found after meeting with leaders in the African-American community that Tupelo had too much important history to limit to only a few markers.
McCoy said he found the civil rights component to be particularly compelling because unlike many other events in the nation’s past, the history makers are still alive and well. He said many of them have incredible stories that were not being recorded.
Tupelo City Council member Nettie Davis was active in the civil rights movement, and met with black leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson and Rep. John Lewis.
“Our young people need to know the history of what people had to go through” during the civil rights movement, she said.
The first Civil War marker will be unveiled near Spring Street in Tupelo at the site of the Battle of King’s Creek in May during an event to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the war.
“Marketing these sites will give visitors to Tupelo an even more profound understanding of our community,” McCoy said.
A board of 13 community members will advise the CVB and the city on what sites should be included. Members include Norris “Piggy” Caldwell, Edwina Carpenter, Nettie Davis, Dick Hill, Danza Johnson, Jamie Joyner, Bobby King, Zell Long, Tom Parsons, Kirk Perry, Phyllis Sims, Sean Thompson and Wesley Wells.