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Discover Mississippi: The Mississippi...

Discover Mississippi: The Mississippi Freedom Trail

By: Courtney Ingle - July 9, 2024

  • The Mississippi Freedom Trail is a tour of the people, places, and events that molded the fight against oppression in the Civil Rights Movement in the Magnolia State.

The Mississippi Freedom Trail is more than a series of markers across the state. The Mississippi Freedom Trail is a tour of the people, places, and events that molded the fight against oppression in the Civil Rights Movement in the Magnolia State.

This summer marks 60 years since the efforts of Freedom Summer in 1964, when advocates, leaders, and volunteers of every race and creed allied across Mississippi and encouraged African-American Mississippians to vote. 

Markers of Memory: The Significance of the Mississippi Freedom Trail

The Mississippi Freedom Trail is a sweeping network of historical markers throughout the state commemorating significant civil rights events and figures. The markers are placed near or at the exact locations where historical events led to unfolding stories we still tell today. From the Biloxi Beach Wade-Ins to other prominent civil rights battle sites, each stop on the Mississippi Freedom Trail offers a tangible connection to the past.

“The Mississippi Freedom Trail is a system of markers historical markers throughout the state that denotes the state’s civil rights history between 1945 and 1975,” said John Spann, Program and Outreach Officer for the Mississippi Humanities Council. “They mark places, people, events that happened within that time period.”

Highlighting Key Figures in Mississippi’s Civil Rights Movement

Several new markers have been added to the trail this summer, honoring well-known and lesser-known civil rights heroes:

  • Joyce and Dorie Ladner: These sisters were central figures in the Freedom Summer of 1964, and their marker in Hattiesburg commemorates their contributions.
  • Dr. Benjamin Murph: His marker in Laurel celebrates his work as a civil rights organizer.
  • Henry Reeves: A former landowner in Benton County, Reeves played a crucial role in resurrecting the NAACP chapter in his area despite intimidation from white supremacists.
  • Annie Devine: A SNCC and COFO organizer, her marker in Canton honors her legacy as a Freedom Democratic Party delegate and co-founder.
  • Victoria Gray Adams: Recognized in Palmer’s Crossing in the Hattiesburg area, she co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

According to Spann, more markers are approved to be raised this summer, and nearly two dozen more will be raised by December 2025. 

“We’re nearly doubling the amount of markers within the next year,” said Spann. 

The Process Behind the Markers

Creating and placing these markers is an extensive and expensive process. The Mississippi Humanities Council collaborates with Visit Mississippi, and the markers are funded and managed through this partnership. Each marker costs $10,000 to erect, but the agencies joining forces made it happen.

“We knew how rich our state history is with the civil rights movement. Mississippi is literally the cradle of the civil rights movement,” Spann states. “We had a surplus of funds, so we made this marker process free to everyone that applies, but they would have to go through the approval process.”

This initiative has significantly increased the number of markers, with 37 new markers approved and 32 already in place. 

The Importance of the Mississippi Freedom Trail

The Mississippi Freedom Trail is more than just a series of markers; it outlines the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. It is a powerful reminder of our shared history and the ongoing struggle for justice.

“We are the cradle of the civil rights movement,” said Spann. “And it’s our duty to preserve and share this history.”

For more information about the Mississippi Freedom Trail and to explore the markers, you can visit the Mississippi Humanities Council’s website or the Visit Mississippi site. 

About the Author(s)
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Courtney Ingle

Courtney Ingle is a veteran journalist with more than a decade's worth of experience in print, radio, and digital media. Courtney brings her talents to bear at Magnolia Tribune to cover family-centered education and to elevate those unique aspects of Mississippi culture.