Hattiesburg was the site of many events during the civil rights movement that are highlighted every February during Black History Month. All year long, however, local groups and officials work to mark these historic moments, the history that led up to them and their resonating impact on Black history. Educational attractions and annual cultural events help residents learn about the racial history of Hattiesburg and how to better connect to the diverse local community.
Here are four ways to get involved in 2021:
Freedom Summer Trail
The Freedom Summer Trail commemorates the 1964 voter registration drive launched by the Council of Federated Organizations. Hattiesburg played a central role in this effort with 90 out-of-state volunteers, 3,000 local participants and 675 Freedom School students.
“Historians regard the 1960s Civil Rights Movement as one of the three most important eras in the United States’ domestic history,” reads the 1964 Freedom Trail website. “Hattiesburg, Mississippi and Freedom Summer played a prominent role in the progressive movement, and the 1964 Freedom Summer Trail and its audio tour commemorates the city’s journey. Marking these historic sites honors those who made history by proudly sharing their stories.”
There are 15 stops along the Trail tour. Visitors begin at the Visitors Center on Highway 49 where they can pick up a map. Each stop is marked by a plaque with information on how to listen to the audio description of the historical event it represents. More information is available at hburgfreedomtrail.org.
African American Military History Museum
Located on East 6th Street in downtown Hattiesburg, the African American Military History Museum boasts a wide array of artifacts and information on the Black community’s experience in the U.S. military from the Revolutionary War to the modern War on Terror. It even features Hattiesburg’s Hall of Heroes to honor and remember those from the local community who served.
They are currently open for both in-person and virtual tours to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the organization. Admission is free, but donations are always welcome.
During the month of February, the museum has been offering several special events and exhibits to celebrate Black History Month. The next event is a presentation on Feb. 27 called, “Dialogue with the Drummonds: Generations in the Military Service.”
Find out more at their website: www.hattiesburguso.com.
Jesse Leroy Brown Mural
The Downtown Hattiesburg Association and the Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art both take pride in promoting the art scene and cultural significance of the arts in Hattiesburg. Two new murals honor some of Hattiesburg’s African American greats.
The mural “Courage” honors Jesse Leroy Brown, the first African American naval aviator and first African American navy officer to die in the Korean War. Brown received the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the U.S. Navy launched the USS Jesse L. Brown on March 16, 1972, in his memory. The mural is located near 4 Points Church and should be completed by the end of February.
Support Local Black-Owned Businesses
Residents wishing to support their local African American community can check out the Mississippi Minority Business Registry (http://mmbr.org/) or the Facebook group The Black Market - Hattiesburg, MS (@theblackmarkethattiesburg). The group maintains a list of Black-owned businesses and organizations to help promote conscious consumerism. Several prominent business owners, like Nelson Haskin – owner of Blu Jazz Café, Nellie’s Chicken & Daiquiris, and SouthBound Bagel – are featured on the site.