October 26, 2019
Dear Family & Friends:
Natchez is the oldest city on the Mississippi River. It was established by the French in 1716 and was named after the Natchez Tribe of Native Americans. Natchez was ceded by the British to the United States after the Revolutionary War under the terms of the Treaty of Paris. Natchez served as the Capital of the American Mississippi Territory and the state of Mississippi. The Capital was moved to Jackson in 1822 because it was more centrally located.
Wealthy Southern planters built antebellum mansions, plantations and estates in Natchez where they grew cotton and sugarcane using slave labor. Many of these mansions, plantations and estates can still be seen. I wish I had time to visit them. Natchez became the principal port from which these crops were exported upstream and downstream. During the period from 1820-1860, Natchez was one of the richest cities in America.
After the fall of New Orleans, Natchez was surrendered by the Confederate forces without a fight in September of 1862. The post-War economy boomed because Natchez was spared the destruction suffered by other Southern cities.
I was grounded by the rain all day on October 25. I ventured into town to order breakfast at the Natchez Coffee Shop and complete a walking tour of the city. My taxi driver was the highlight of the trip into town. His name is “Pulley Bone.” His Dad gave him that name for good luck based on the chicken “wishbone.” Pulley Bone was once the drummer for Jerry Lee Lewis’ band. As luck would have it, “Great Balls of Fire” came on the radio and Pulley Bone serenaded me.
I had dinner at “Fat Mama’s Tamales.” With that name, I had to dine there. The tamales and “Knock You Naked” Margarita were great.
On October 26, I took a horse carriage tour of Natchez led by Randy. I have included some photos taken on that tour as well as some photos from my walking tour on October 25.
The highlight of my day was a ceremony in which the “Parchman Ordeal” Monument was unveiled and dedicated. Andrew Young attended the ceremony and gave a stirring and inspiring speech, which emphasized hope, healing and faith in God.
Over 150 young African-American men and women planned a civil rights march on October 2, 1965 to protest segregation, unfair treatment and obstruction of voting rights. As they left their churches to begin the march, they were confronted by the police and forced into vehicles. They were detained for hours at the Natchez City Auditorium while the authorities decided what to do with them. Many were transported to local jails. Over 150 were transported by bus at midnight to the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi to “teach them a lesson.” The bus ride was over four hours. Upon arrival, they were cursed at, stripped naked, body searched, given a laxative and held in crowded cells. Some were were sprayed with cold water in the frigid weather. They were charged with parading without a permit under a statute that was later declared unconstitutional.
All of these marchers were bailed out of prison by Nellie Jackson, aka “The Mississippi Madam.” Ms. Jackson ran a brothel at the current Under the Hill saloon where I am staying. Check out the Nellie Jackson documentary on Netflix.
Undeterred, these courageous men and women returned from Parchman prison and continued with their marches and protests. I was fortunate to meet several of these people after the ceremony.
I’ll be back on the River tomorrow. I hope to arrive in Baton Rouge in four days.