Jackson isn’t exaggerating when it says it’s the City with Soul. The Mississippi capital’s indomitable spirit is everywhere–from its church pews and homegrown chefs to its powerful push for civil rights.
Start with singing
On a Sunday, wakeup a tour with rousing hymns sung by a church choir. Many Jackson congregations welcome groups, including New Hope, Anderson United Methodist and Cade Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, where Visit Jackson President and CEO Rickey L. Thigpen, Ph.D., is a member. “He would roll out the red carpet if someone wanted to come to his church,” assures Yolanda Clay-Moore, Visit Jackson’s communications manager.
The city’s best-known choir, the Mississippi Mass Choir (Clay-Moore is a member) keeps a packed schedule, but groups can visit Malaco Records, which recorded the choir’s first album. In business since the 1960s, Malaco is the force behind dozens of R & B, soul and gospel singers.
2 Museums, much to see
Jackson’s history and civil rights are entwined and so are its civil rights and history museums, called 2 Mississippi Museums. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, opened in 2018, is “a day by itself, “ says Clay-Moore. “There is so much information in each museum that if you do the Civil Rights first you won’t make it to the history museum.”
The Civil Rights Museum’s exhibits are heart wrenching. There’s the menacing rifle, used to murder civil rights activist Medgar Evans in his Jackson driveway. Classrooms for white students and black students from the segregation era remind separate is not equal. But a central space feels hopeful, designed to grow brighter as more people enter it. “People can come into the light, take a breather and dive back in to the galleries,” says Clay-Moore.
Dig in to chefs’ delights
Visitors can also taste local talent in the museums’ Nissan Café by Nick Wallace, opened in 2021. Wallace, a Black chef and Jackson native, was the first Mississippian to win the Food Network’s Chopped. The café serves his takes on gumbo, Mississippi mud pie and other Southern dishes.
Cindy Ayers-Elliott, a Black businesswoman and farmer who wears pearls and a straw cowboy hat, provides another take on local food. She welcomes tours to Foot Prints Farm, her 68-acre solution to the city’s lack of fresh vegetables. She also brings in a chef to cook up a meal for guests.
Final stop: Farish Street
No exploration of Jackson’s African-American heritage is complete without a stop in the Farish Street District, for decades the state’s most important Black business district. The Smith-Robinson Cultural Center, with its replica of a slave ship, is nearby. At The Big Apple Inn, where Medgar Evers had his office upstairs, fourth-generation owner Geno Lee fills orders for pigs’ ears and smoked sausage sandwiches or “smokes.” “When anybody who has left Mississippi and Jackson comes back, they have to go there for smokes,” says Clay-Moore.
Visit Jackson is happy to help planners arrange these experiences and others.
For more information:
Sherri Ratliff, CMP