Jackson, MS has a rich civil rights history, and while there are some well-known civil rights museums in the area, there are also plenty of other lesser-known attractions. Find out the best places to visit on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend this year, and then complete the weekend with a stay at the historic Fairview Inn. We’re offering a special rate for the weekend, so you can be close to all of the action.
Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center
Located in downtown Jackson, the Smith Robertson Museum is committed to increasing public knowledge and comprehension of the history and culture of African Americans. While visiting, you don’t want to miss the Smithsonian’s exhibition, Field to Factory: The Afro-American Migration, 1915-1940. This traveling exhibit documents and explores African Americans moving from the rural South to the urban North. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, and Saturday from 10am to 1pm.
Margaret Walker Center
The Margaret Walker Center was founded as the Institute for the Study of the History, Life, and Culture of Black People by Margaret Walker in 1968 when she served as a professor of English at Jackson State University. The Center remains committed to the conservation, exposition, and distribution of African American history and culture. The Center offers a museum and exhibits including a huge oral history department and significant paper records. It is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm.
Farish Street Neighborhood Historic District
Up until the 1970s, the Farish Street Neighborhood was a hub for Black-owned businesses. After legal segregation under Jim Crow laws, the street boasted numerous booming enterprises. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it was the largest economically independent black community in Mississippi as of 1980. Today, you can visit Johnny T’s Bistro & Blues for shrimp and grits that will change your life, or the Big Apple Inn, a diner where civil rights leaders and activists used to congregate in the 1950’s and 1960’s that is now fourth generation owned.
Medger Evers House
Shortly after becoming the NAACP Mississippi field secretary in 1955, Medgar Evers built a one-story home in Jackson for his family. At the time, he was already starting to get threats as a prominent civil rights activist, so he did not build a front door, and only had an entrance through the carport. On the night of June 12, 1963, Evers was returning home and was assassinated in his carport. The house has now been restored to look the way it did when the Evers family lived there, and the home recently became listed as a National Monument. While it is not currently open for tours, we recommend driving by when you are in town; get directions here.
COFO Civil Rights Education Center
In 1961, the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) was established as an umbrella organization for other Mississippi civil rights organizations including SNCC, CORE, SCLC, NAACP, and others. The COFO office served as the state headquarters for the Mississippi civil rights movement in the 1960s, helping to register voters among other many projects. To set up a tour, call 601-979-3935 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
After opening in 2017, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum quickly gained national attention. Eight unique galleries take you through the years 1945-1976 during the national civil rights movement, and in Mississippi specifically. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 4pm, and on Sunday from 12pm to 4pm. Admission is currently free every Sunday, and admission will also be free on Monday, January 18th (open from 9am to 4pm).
Former Greyhound Bus Station
In 1961, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated public buses were unconstitutional, integration of buses was still not enforced in the South. To challenge this notion, a group of civil rights activists dubbed Freedom Riders made their way to Jackson, MS from Montgomery, AL on a public bus. Riders who attempted to use the whites-only facilities at the Greyhound bus station were arrested in Jackson – more than 300 people over the course of four months – about half of them white and half Black. There were so many people arrested, that after filling up the local Jackson jails, they were transferred to maximum-security Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. The riders were sentenced to 30 days in jail, but attorneys from the NAACP appealed the convictions to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed them.
Mississippi Freedom Trail Markers
You can spot Freedom Trail markers at many of the above locations, including Medgar Evers home, the Greyhound Bus Station, and COFO. Some other sites with Freedom Trail markers for you to discover include Tougaloo College, Jackson State University, and WLBT-TV. Plus, many are familiar with the 1960 sit-in at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, NC, but a similar sit-in also occurred in 1963 at Woolworth’s in Jackson, MS when students and faculty from Tougaloo College staged a sit-in to protest segregated seating. Among the participants was Anne Moody, whose book, Coming of Age in Mississippi, we highly recommend as a glimpse into the civil rights movement specifically in Mississippi.