Jackson, Mississippi: Rich in history

08/09/2011
Field Trip Destination

Mississippi has a long standing and proud tradition of hospitality, proven by her most valuable natural resource — her people. As the capital city, Jackson is no different. Good old-fashioned Southern hospitality combined with a rich history make the capital of Mississippi a great choice for a weekend jaunt.

A major player in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, Jackson is home to a number of fine museums that focus on the conflict and the profound change that followed. Museums such as the Smith Robertson, housed in the first school for black children from the area, examine the struggles and achievements of African- Americans in art and literature. Through art, artifacts, and photography, the work, lifestyle, and artistic contributions of African Americans are celebrated, evoking a greater understanding of the African-American experience in the Deep South. The museum is housed in the former Smith Robertson School, the first public school built for African Americans in Jackson. The school opened in 1894 and served the African-American community until 1971.

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Artifacts highlight the contributions of black Mississippians through struggle and achievement, as seen in exhibits such as “From Slavery to America, 1670-1864” and in the Hall of Fame, which includes personalities from the state who are pioneers in their respective positions. The museum also houses on a permanent basis the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Services organized exhibition, “Field to Factory: The Afro-American Migration, 1915-1940. “This exhibition interprets African Americans moving in great numbers from the rural South to the urban North. The larger version of this exhibition is housed at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

A stone’s throw from the Smith Robertson Museum is the historical Farish Street. A stroll around the Farish Street Historical District downtown presents many opportunities to view old houses, churches and other buildings, many of which were built by former slaves. Once a vibrant center for African American commercial activity, the District is experiencing a re-birth with new restaurants and music venues that celebrate the important role this area played in the Mississippi Blues story.

While downtown a visit to the Old Capitol Museum is a must. As the first capital building of Mississippi from 1839 to 1903, The Old Capitol has been restored to its original grandeur and reopened by the state as a free museum focusing on the distinguished history of the building and the events that have taken place in it. Interactive multimedia exhibits explore the roles of the legislature, governor, and high court, as well as the importance of historic preservation to the state, the activities that took place in the building after the New Capitol was constructed in 1903, and much more. Special exhibits include a look at Mississippi’s role in the Civil War with “Pieces of the Past: Weapons of War.” A rotating artifact exhibit features dueling pistols owned by Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

Kids of all ages will love the new Mississippi Children’s Museum that opened in early 2011. Mississippi Children’s Museum exhibits and programs combine Mississippi content with an understanding of how children learn best while addressing the specific needs of our children. At the Mississippi Children’s Museum, children have a place to discover for themselves the richness of the places where they live, their heritage, and cultural traditions. Children can experience possibilities for dynamic futures in Mississippi and beyond. This celebratory framework provides the content base for our exhibitions, programs, and outreach. Five basic themes provide the content base for the museum exhibits: Mississippi Heritage in the Exploring Mississippi Gallery, Literacy in the Wild About Reading Gallery, Health and Nutrition in the Healthy Fun Gallery, The Arts in the Express Yourself Gallery, and Mississippi Industry in the World At Work Gallery.

The sky’s the limit for learning at the Russell C. Davis Planetarium. Experience the universe in a magnificent hemispheric theater whose programs have been delighting visitors of all ages for over 25 years. School programming offers curriculum enrichment in astronomy and space science for organized school groups. Laser Light Concerts feature the music of contemporary and classic rock-and-roll artists and the vibrant imagery of the most powerful indoor laser system this side of Las Vegas. This new cinema is an experience of stunning realism on the giant hemispheric screen with documentary programs ranging from sea to land. It is the only theater in the State of Mississippi that can offer their visitors this magnificent programming.

The newly renovated Mississippi Museum of Art is comprised of artwork from the museum’s permanent collection, The Mississippi Story, which reveals the remarkable history of visual arts in the Magnolia State. The installation includes more than 200 objects and is divided thematically into four sections: Mississippi’s Landscape, Mississippi’s People, Life in Mississippi, and Exporting Mississippi’s Culture. The exhibition is guest curated by Patti Carr Black, author of “Art in Mississippi,” and is the museum’s most comprehensive showing of Mississippi art from its permanent collection. The exhibition features artwork by Walter Anderson, George Ohr, Sam Gilliam, William Dunlap, John McCrady, Richmond Barthé, Eudora Welty, William Hollingsworth, Marie Hull, and William Eggleston, among many others. Icons of the Permanent Collection: Masterpieces of American Art is an ongoing exhibition of 18 stellar works of art from the Mississippi Museum of Art’s permanent collection. The survey of our best-known artists includes works by James McNeill Whistler, Georgia O’Keeffe, John Sloan, George Inness, Albert Bierstadt, Robert Henri, Moses Soyer, Reginald Marsh and other masters.

Steeped in southern culture, Jackson is home to a multitude of world-class painters, sculptors, dancers, actors, architects, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, and artisans of many disciplines. Find original work in galleries and charming shops and fine performances on a variety of city stages. The city pulses with music from classical to inspirational, home-grown gospel, blues, jazz, rock ‘n roll, R&B, and more, found all around the town. Live music and year ‘round festivals enliven your senses and recharge your soul!

Speaking of the arts, the City with Soul has always been a very literary town. Willie Morris, Margaret Walker, Richard Ford and other greats made their homes here over the years. Pulitzer Prize winning author and Jackson native Eudora Welty, honored around the world during her 2009 centennial celebration, worked in and wrote about her beloved Jackson all her life. Enjoy a tour of her garden and home, one of the most intact literary house museums in the world.

Try the tour of actual locales in Kathryn Stockett’s New York Times best-selling novel “The Help,” also a major motion picture filmed here. Explore Jackson’s Blues Trail with 11 (and counting) descriptive markers, or relive history through four driving tours of significant civil rights movement sites in the city. History buff? Jackson has a fascinating and complex history to discover from the pre-historic Natchez Trace, to the Civil War, to the current downtown Renaissance!

The Jackson Zoo, Mississippi’s only AZA accredited zoological park, is a living classroom. More than 35,000 school children visit the Zoo each year with their teachers. There were more than 27,000 participants in last year’s education programs. Zoo programs provide teachers with exciting curriculum-based lessons for their students. With 120 species and 776 animals to see, including many endangered species, there is always something to see at the zoo. A new tiger habitat was completed in 2010. The Jackson Zoo welcomed a new rhino to add to the existing exhibit and saw the birth of a female giraffe in 2011.

Jackson is a fresh destination for a relaxed weekend getaway or an extended stay to explore 27 unique museums and attractions in a lush green setting, hundreds of fun events and festivals, three historic cultural districts, two universities and several colleges, innumerable visual and performing arts, hot sports action and cool nightlife. You’ll be able to choose from 49 comfy hotels and inns to suit your taste and budget. Day spas and a variety of other services offer creature comforts. The local cuisine is classic Southern, ranging from satisfying Soul Food to creative Southern Fusion, to international fare with a southern flair. Your favorite national brands are also found among Jackson’s 300 restaurants.

There is truly something for everyone in Jackson, Mississippi. Beautifully changing seasons offer numerous fall and holiday events rich with tradition, surprising spring flings for shaking off winter’s chill, and laid back summer celebrations that detour off the fast lane. Let us show you how it’s done in the City with Soul!

For more information, visit www.visitjackson.com.
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Issue 16.2 | Fall 2014

Southeast Education Network

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