Learn about the contributions, struggles and successes of the African-Americans living and working here in Vicksburg, Mississippi. From monuments to museums, African-American influence can be found all throughout the city. For more information about black history and culture in the South, contact Visit Vicksburg today.
African-Americans During the Civil War
Following the Emancipation Proclamation, black volunteers were able to join the Union Army for the first time. Almost 200,000 men formed 157 regiments that would become the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Many played a key role in the campaign, siege and defense of Vicksburg, especially The First Mississippi (African Descent) and The Ninth and Eleventh Louisiana (Corps d’Afrique) at the Battle of Milliken’s Bend.
A small town outside Vicksburg, Milliken’s Bend had once been an essential Union supply site. On June 7, 1863, Confederate forces staged an attack in hopes of distracting Union troops and gaining an advantage in the larger conflict. Only 1,410 soldiers remained at Milliken’s Bend on the day of the battle, including 1,250 members of three USCT regiments: The First Mississippi (African Descent) and The Ninth and Eleventh Louisiana (Corps d’Afrique).
The resulting battle proved to be one of the longest close-order combat events in the Civil War, and these brave soldiers secured a pivotal victory for the Union Army. Additionally, USCT troops would play an important role in and around Vicksburg after the siege in service details, police duty and more.
Today, the Mississippi African-American Monument represents the sacrifices that so many of them made in blood. The statue, located in the Vicksburg National Military Park, showcases three African-American men. One looks back at the past of slavery and one gazes toward the future of freedom. Both figures are supporting a wounded soldier between them.
The Rise of Blues Music
The Mississippi Delta is the birthplace of blues music, and it all started with African-Americans. Songs about the trials of life in the post-slavery South would eventually evolve into the soulful blues music we all enjoy today. Many of the most famous blues singers brought this heritage and Delta origins to their music, including B.B. King and Muddy Waters. Travel the Mississippi Blues Trail to discover more.
Along this fascinating route through musical history, you’ll discover five can’t-miss Vicksburg sites. These locations celebrate Willie Dixon, the Vicksburg-born poet laureate of the blues, the Red Tops and one of their most frequent venues, The Blue Room, the Marcus Bottom community’s contributions to jazz, blues and gospel music and the history of Highway 61 South, where so many musicians travelled and drew inspiration for their work. On May 28, 2019 Vicksburg will receive its sixth Mississippi Blues Trail Marker in honor of Dr. William Ferris.
More African-American Culture Around Vicksburg
As one of the most prominent African-American cultural cities in the area, Vicksburg has a lot more to offer. Here are some highlights you might come across while exploring the city.
- Jacqueline House Museum – With over 20,000 historical artifacts dating as far back as the days of slavery, the Jacqueline House Museum is a treasure trove of African-American heritage.
- Bethel AME Church – Bethel AME Church has played a prominent role in black faith as the very first African Methodist Episcopal Church in Mississippi.
- Madame C.J. Walker – The first female African-American millionaire and founder of the popular hair care brand, Madame C.J. Walker was born just across the Mississippi River near Delta, LA.
- Alcorn State University – About an hour south of Vicksburg is Alcorn State University, the very first – and now the oldest running – black land grant college in the United States.
While walking around Vicksburg, you’ll likely discover even more pieces of African-American heritage, such as historical markers located at the city’s first African-American high schools. For more insights into black culture and to get information about attractions and tours, contact Visit Vicksburg or stop by the Visitor’s Center.