February is designated as Black History Month, and there’s no better place to honor the accomplishments and valor of the Black community than Hattiesburg. Whether you visit in February or any time of the year, there is so much history to be learned and respected in the Hub City.
Hattiesburg was a major battlefield for the fight for Civil Rights and was and still is home to so many esteemed individuals in the Black community. Hattiesburg was the largest site during the Freedom Summer of 1964 with 90 volunteers from around the nation and 3,000 local participants. The volunteers helped educate over 675 Freedom School students and braved much adversity as they helped the black community pass the test to vote that was invoked to try to keep African Americans from voting. To begin your trip back to many of turbulent times of the 1960s, you need to plan a stop at the Hattiesburg Lake Terrace Convention Center and pick up a guide to that will lead you on an interesting journey through many of the landmarks that should not be missed.
“Hattiesburg definitely has a lot to offer for Black History Month and the African American community,” Paige Robertson, Director of Communications and Digital Strategies, said. “We have guides for self-led driving tours that lead you on a historical trail and audio to some of the major landmarks where so much history happened in the city during the 1964 Freedom Summer Trail.”
The guide leads you to 16 sites, designated by trail markers, throughout the area, such as the Vernon Dahmer Memorial statute, Mount Zion Baptist Church, which we know as “The Civil Rights Church,” and so many other memorial spots as the trail ends with a visit to Palmer’s Crossing Community Center, and Kennard Washington Hall, named in honor of the first African American student to apply for admission to the University of Southern Mississippi. You can spot these locations by the Freedom Trail Markers which also provide a little more information about the bravery and strength of the black community during this very turbulent time. Also, the guide will tell you where to tune your radio to so that you can hear many of the reminisces and tales of tragedy that occurred during this time.
“It’s such an emotional and moving tour as you hear many of the memories of our local citizens that lived here during those times and the events they endured for the freedom of the future of the African American community,” Robertson continued. “The tour and getting a chance to hear these brave people tell their memories is such an emotional and inspiring experience that should not be missed.”
To learn more about the 1964 Freedom Summer tour, visit the official website at Home – 1964 Freedom Summer Trail.
You’ll learn of the heroism of so many African Americans, the torture and disdain they endured, and their resilience to fight for the same freedoms and rights as their fellow white citizens. You’ll definitely come away with a greater respect, sympathy, and reverence for the African Americans during this time. But you’ll also receive such a sense of pride of how so many individuals stood stern and continued to fight for their rights to vote and to be seen as equals in society.
Then, you can find out more about the accomplishments, achievements, and bravery of so many in the African Community at the African American Military History Museum, located at what was the former USO club that was built for African American soldiers in 1942. You’ll learn of the history of the USO and get a chance to observe at WWII Recreation in Hattiesburg’s first African American Library and Community Center. The museum is home to many treasures and mementos of not only African American soldiers but also other esteemed and accomplished individuals of the Black community.
The museum highlights the accomplishments of the African American community, ranging from exhibits honoring soldiers, professionals, authors, abolitionists, and citizens that survived the struggles that their race endured throughout history. During the month of February, they have held special events on Tuesdays and Thursdays which have honored African American pioneers in medicine and leaders for the rights to vote. The museum has been busy all month with many youth groups coming to tour and honor these leaders while having some fun as well. About 30 cadets of the Mississippi Youth Challenge Academy enjoyed a scavenger hunt tour that helped them to learn more facts about the amazing accomplishments of many individuals throughout the city during some very trying times. The scavenger hunt led the students to ask questions and begin even more dialogues as they learned of these historical leaders.
The museum encourages everyone to come tour the exhibits on display or attend some of the many programming and outreach opportunities hosted by the museum.
“We are so fortunate in Hattiesburg to have so much history all around us and a museum dedicated to heroism of so many individuals that paved the way for future generations,” Robertson said.
Although February is designated as Black History Month, any time of the year is a great time to learn about forefathers and the bravery of so many that survived a frightful time during throughout history, and especially the Freedom Summer of 1964.
For more information on the Freedom Summer Trail tour, stop by the Hattiesburg Lake Terrace Convention Center and visit the official website of the African American Military History Museum.