Saturday, May 28, 2022

Antebellum Homeowners Educate Natchez Community with Broader Look at History

By Anna Caroline Barker

Journalism Student

acbarke1@go.olemiss.edu

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the annual Pilgrimage Tours in Natchez, where homeowners open their doors to tourists. While the Confederacy was the main focus in the past, homeowners this year also tried to recognize the contributions of the enslaved people who built these homes.

“Pilgrimage, for many many years, told the story of the wealthy white plantation owners,” said Martha Colson, president of the Pilgrimage Tours. “Many of us have been uncomfortable with that for quite a while. But with all that’s happened in this country in recent years, so many things that were part of our everyday lives, especially in the South, we had to start questioning.”

Incorporated in 1803, Natchez is the oldest municipality in Mississippi, and today, it is widely known for its stately antebellum plantation homes, which created a rich foundation in both historical significance and tourism. However, the great wealth that came with these homes also came at great human cost. 

“It’s a hard story to tell for many people living here, especially for those of us who live in the houses, where our ancestors lived and had enslaved people taking care of the house,” Colson said. “But we’re working very hard in Natchez to own up to these aspects of our past.”

Since 1932, private homeowners every spring have made tours of their historic property available to the public. With 19 different homes open daily, each estate is filled with authentic furnishings and stunning antiques, all of which hold a rich history involving the enslaved people of Natchez. 

Rather than solely focusing on how the Confederacy shaped the town of Natchez, homeowners provided a more comprehensive picture of the city as a whole, including the rich history of the area’s Indigenous people as well as the achievements and contributions of the Black community. 

“About 50% of our population [in Natchez] is black, many of which descended from the slaves who lived in these very homes,” said Aylett Dickman, homeowner of the Green Leaves mansion. “It’s important to know their stories, and to allow others to see their hard work that shaped the history of these homes and this city. It’s important to acknowledge it.”

The tours ended on April 12, but the homeowners hope to honor the people who built them in years to come. For more information on the Pilgrimage Tours or how to get tickets, visit https://natchezpilgrimage.com


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