Natchez, Mississippi

Not to be confused with Natchez, Louisiana.
Natchez, Mississippi
Sole incorporated city
City of Natchez

The historic Melrose estate at Natchez National Historical Park is an example of Antebellum Era Greek Revival architecture.
Nickname(s): The Bluff City, The Trace City, The River City, Antebellum Capital of the World, Historic Natchez on the Mississippi
Motto: "On the Mighty Mississippi"

Location of Natchez in Adams County
Natchez, Mississippi
Natchez, Mississippi

Location in Mississippi

Coordinates: 31°33′16″N 91°23′15″W / 31.55444°N 91.38750°W / 31.55444; -91.38750Coordinates: 31°33′16″N 91°23′15″W / 31.55444°N 91.38750°W / 31.55444; -91.38750
Country  United States
State  Mississippi
County Adams
Founded 1716 as Fort Rosalie, renamed by 1730
Louisiana (New France)
Established c. 1790 as the capital of the Natchez District
Spanish West Florida
Incorporated 1800s
  Mayor Darryl Grennell
  Total 35.9 km2 (13.9 sq mi)
  Land 34.2 km2 (13.2 sq mi)
  Water 1.7 km2 (0.7 sq mi)
Elevation 66 m (217 ft)
Population (2010)
  Total 15,792
  Density 462.1/km2 (1,197/sq mi)
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
  Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 39120-39122
Area code(s) 601
FIPS code 28-50440
GNIS feature ID 0691586

Natchez is the county seat and only city[1] of Adams County, Mississippi, United States. Natchez has a total population of 15,792 (as of the 2010 census).[2] Located on the Mississippi River across from Vidalia in Concordia Parish, Louisiana, Natchez was a prominent city in the antebellum years, a center of cotton planters and Mississippi River trade.

It is some 90 miles (140 km) southwest of Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, which is located near the center of the state. It is about 85 miles (137 km) north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, located on the lower Mississippi River. Natchez is the 25th-largest city in the state.[3] The city was named for the Natchez tribe of Native Americans, who with their ancestors, inhabited much of the area from the 8th century CE through the French colonial period.


Spanish Colonial Natchez historical marker

Established by French colonists in 1716, Natchez is one of the oldest and most important European settlements in the lower Mississippi River Valley. After the French lost the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War), they ceded Natchez and near territory to Spain in the Treaty of Paris of 1763. (It later traded other territory east of the Mississippi River with Great Britain, which expanded what it called West Florida).

After the United States acquired this area from the British after the American Revolutionary War, the city served as the capital of the American Mississippi Territory and then of the state of Mississippi. It predates Jackson by more than a century; the latter replaced Natchez as the capital in 1822, as it was more centrally located in the developing state. The strategic location of Natchez, on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, ensured that it would be a pivotal center of trade, commerce, and the interchange of ethnic Native American, European, and African cultures in the region; it held this position for two centuries after its founding.

In U.S. history, Natchez is recognized particularly for its role in the development of the Old Southwest during the first half of the nineteenth century. It was the southern terminus of the historic Natchez Trace, with the northern terminus being Nashville, Tennessee. After unloading their cargoes in Natchez or New Orleans, many pilots and crew of flatboats and keelboats traveled by the Trace overland to their homes in the Ohio River Valley . (Given the strong current of the Mississippi River, it was not until steamships were developed in the 1820s that travel northward on the river could be accomplished by large boats.) The Natchez Trace also played an important role during the War of 1812. Today the modern Natchez Trace Parkway, which commemorates this route, still has its southern terminus in Natchez.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the city attracted wealthy Southern planters as residents, who built mansions to fit their ambitions. Their plantations were vast tracts of land in the surrounding lowlands along the riverfronts of Mississippi and Louisiana, where they grew large commodity crops of cotton and sugarcane using slave labor. Natchez became the principal port from which these crops were exported, both upriver to Northern cities and downriver to New Orleans, where much of the cargo was exported to Europe. Many of the mansions built by planters before 1860 survive and form a major part of the city's architecture and identity. Agriculture remained the primary economic base for the region until well into the twentieth century.

During the twentieth century, the city's economy experienced a downturn, first due to the replacement of steamboat traffic on the Mississippi River by railroads in the early 1900s, some of which bypassed the river cities and drew away their commerce. Later in the 20th century, many local industries closed in a restructuring that sharply reduced the number of jobs in the area. Despite its status as a popular destination for heritage tourism because of well-preserved antebellum architecture, Natchez has had a general decline in population since 1960. It remains the principal city of the Natchez, MS–LA Micropolitan Statistical Area.


Pre-European settlement (to 1716)

Main article: Natchez people
Great Temple on Mound C and the Sun Chiefs cabin, drawn by Alexandre de Batz in the 1730s

According to archaeological excavations, the area has been continuously inhabited by various cultures of indigenous peoples since the 8th century A.D.[4] The original site of Natchez was developed as a major village with ceremonial platform mounds, built by people of the prehistoric Plaquemine culture, part of the influential Mississippian culture and active in this area from about 700CE. Archaeological evidence shows they began construction of the three main earthwork mounds by 1200. Additional work was done in the mid-15th century.[4]

By the late 17th and early 18th century, the Natchez (pronounced "Nochi"), descendants of the Plaquemine culture,[4][5] occupied the site. They used it as their major ceremonial center, after leaving the area of Emerald Mound. They added to the mounds, including a residence for their chief, the "Great Sun", on Mound B, and a combined temple and charnel house for the elite on Mound C.

Many early European explorers, including Hernando de Soto, La Salle and Bienville, made contact with the Natchez at this site, called the Grand Village of the Natchez. Their accounts provided descriptions of the society and village.

The most thorough account was written by French colonists Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz, who lived near the Natchez for several years, learning their language and befriending leaders. He witnessed the 1725 funeral of the war chief, Tattooed Serpent (Serpent Piqué in French.) The Natchez maintained a hierarchical society, divided into nobles and commoners, with people affiliated according to matrilineal descent. The paramount chief, known as the "Great Sun", owed his position to the rank of his mother. His next eldest brother served as Tattooed Serpent.

The 128-acre (0.52 km2) site of the Grand Village of the Natchez is preserved as a National Historic Landmark; it is maintained by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The site includes a museum with artifacts from the mounds and village. A picnic pavilion and walking trails are also available on the grounds. Nearby Emerald Mound is also a National Historic Landmark of the Natchez and their ancestors.

Colonial history (1716–1783)

In 1716 the French founded Fort Rosalie, to protect the trading post which had been established two years earlier in the Natchez territory. Permanent French settlements and plantations were subsequently developed a dangerous distance from the fort and too near important native locales.[6] The French inhabitants of the "Natchez colony" often came into conflict with the Natchez people over land use and resources. This was one of several Natchez settlements; others lay to the northeast. The Natchez tended to become increasingly split into pro-French and pro-English factions; those who were more distant had more relations with English traders, who came to the area from British colonies to the east.

After several smaller wars, the Natchez (together with the Chickasaw and Yazoo) launched a war to eliminate the French in November 1729. It became known by the Europeans as the "Natchez War" or Natchez Rebellion. The Indians destroyed the French colony at Natchez and other settlements in the area. On November 29, 1729, the Natchez Indians killed a total of 229 French colonists: 138 men, 35 women, and 56 children (the largest death toll by an Indian attack in Mississippi's history). They took most of the women and children as captives. The French with their Indian allies attacked the Natchez repeatedly over the next two years, resulting in most of the Natchez Indians being killed, enslaved, or forced to flee as refugees. After surrender of the leader and several hundred Natchez in 1731, the French took their prisoners to New Orleans, where they were forcibly sold as slaves and shipped as laborers to the Caribbean plantations of Saint-Domingue, as ordered by the French prime minister Maurepas.[7]

Many of the Natchez who escaped enslavement sought refuge with the Creek and Cherokee peoples, ultimately being absorbed into their people.[8] Descendants of the Natchez diaspora have reorganized and survive as the Natchez Nation, a treaty tribe and confederate of the federally recognized Muscogee (Creek) Nation, with a sovereign traditional government.

Following the Seven Years' War, in 1763 Fort Rosalie and the surrounding town, which was renamed after the defeated tribe, came under British rule. Later it was under Spanish colonial rule. After defeat in the American Revolutionary War, the British ceded the territory to the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1783).

Spain was not a party to the treaty, and it was Spanish forces that had taken Natchez from the British. Although the Spanish were loosely allied with the American colonists, they were more interested in advancing their power at the expense of the British. Once the war was over, the Spanish were not inclined to give up that which they had taken by force. The Spanish retained control of Natchez for a time. A census of the Natchez district taken in 1784 counted 1,619 people, including 498 Black-American slaves.

Antebellum (1783–1860)

"The Parsonage" historic house was built in 1852 in Natchez.
The Parsonage was constructed by Peter Little in honor of his wife, Eliza, a dedicated Methodist.
Another Natchez antebellum home available for tours is Stanton Hall, built c. 1858 and located on a whole city block at 401 High Street.

In the late 18th century, Natchez was the starting point of the Natchez Trace overland route, a Native American trail that followed a path established by migrating animals, most likely buffalo, which ran from Natchez to Nashville through what are now Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. Produce and goods were transported on the Mississippi River by the flatboatmen and keelboatmen, who usually sold their wares at Natchez or New Orleans, including their boats (as lumber). They made the long trek back north to their homes overland on the Natchez Trace. The boatmen were locally called "Kaintucks" because they were usually from Kentucky, although the entire Ohio River Valley was well-represented among their numbers. The Trace was traveled heavily until the production of steamboats in the 1820s allowed northward navigation (against the current) on the River.

On October 27, 1795, the U.S. and Spanish signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo, settling their decade-long boundary dispute. All Spanish claims to Natchez were formally surrendered to the United States. More than two years passed before official orders reached the Spanish garrison there. It surrendered the fort and possession of Natchez to United States forces led by Captain Isaac Guion on March 30, 1798.

A week later, Natchez became the first capital of the new Mississippi Territory, created by the Adams administration. After it served for several years as the territorial capital, the territory built a new capital, named Washington, 6 miles (10 km) to the east, also in Adams County. After roughly 15 years, the legislature transferred the capital back to Natchez at the end of 1817, when the territory was admitted as a state. Later the capital was returned to Washington. As the state's population center shifted to the north and east with more settlers entering the area, the legislature voted to move the capital to the more centrally located city of Jackson in 1822.

Throughout the course of the early nineteenth century, Natchez was the center of economic activity for the young state. Its strategic location on the high bluffs on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River enabled it to develop into a bustling port. At Natchez, many local plantation owners had their cotton loaded onto steamboats at the landing known as Natchez-Under-the-Hill[9] to be transported downriver to New Orleans or, sometimes, upriver to St. Louis or Cincinnati. The cotton was sold and shipped to New England, New York, and European spinning and textile mills.

Commercial Bank in downtown Natchez, established in 1836, is built in the Greek Revival style of architecture. The banker lived in a house to the rear of the structure. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Natchez District, along with the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia, pioneered cotton agriculture in the United States. Until new hybridized breeds of short-staple cotton were created in the early nineteenth century, it was unprofitable to grow cotton in the United States anywhere other than those two areas. Although South Carolina had dominated the cotton plantation culture in the eighteenth century and early in the Antebellum South, it was the Natchez District which first experimented with hybridization, making the cotton boom possible. Historians attribute the major part of the expansion of cotton in the Deep South to Eli Whitney's development of the cotton gin; it lowered processing costs for short-staple cotton, making this profitable for cultivation. It was the kind of cotton that could be grown on uplands and throughout the Black Belt of the Deep South. Development of cotton plantations expanded rapidly, increasing demand for slaves in the South. They were sold in the domestic slave trade chiefly from the Upper South.

The growth of the cotton industry attracted many new white settlers to Mississippi, who competed with the Choctaw for their land. Despite land cessions, the settlers continued to encroach on Choctaw territory, leading to conflict. With the election of President Andrew Jackson in 1828, he pressed for Indian removal, gaining Congressional passage of an act authorizing that in 1830. Starting with the Choctaw, the government began removal of Southeastern Indians in 1831 to lands west of the Mississippi River in Indian Territory. Nearly 15,000 Choctaw left their traditional homeland over the next two years.

On May 7, 1840, an intense tornado struck Natchez, killing 269 people, most of whom were on flatboats in the Mississippi River. The tornado killed 317 persons in all, making it the second-deadliest tornado in United States history. Today the event is called the "Great Natchez Tornado".

Natchez in the 1850s

The terrain around Natchez on the Mississippi side of the river is hilly. The city sits on a high bluff above the Mississippi River; to reach the riverbank, one must travel down a steep road to the landing called Silver Street, which is in marked contrast to the flat "delta" lowland found across the river surrounding the city of Vidalia, Louisiana. Its early planter elite built numerous antebellum mansions and estates. Many owned plantations in Louisiana but chose to locate their homes on the higher ground in Mississippi. Prior to the Civil War, Natchez had the most millionaires of any city in the United States.[10] It was frequented by notables such as Aaron Burr, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, Winfield Scott, and John James Audubon. Today the city boasts that it has more antebellum homes than any other city in the U.S., as during the Civil War Natchez was spared the destruction of many other Southern cities.

The Forks of the Road Market had the highest volume of illegal slave sales in Natchez, and Natchez had the most active illegal slave trading market in Mississippi. This also stimulated the city's wealth. The market, at the intersection of two streets, became especially important after the slave traders Isaac Franklin of Tennessee and John Armfield of Virginia purchased the land in 1823. Tens of thousands of mistreated slaves passed through the market, transported from Virginia and the Upper South (many by walking overland), and destined for the plantations in the Deep South. In this forced migration, more than one million enslaved Black American were taken from their families and moved southward. All trading at the market ceased by the summer of 1863, when Union troops occupied Natchez.[11]

Prior to 1845 and the founding of the Natchez Institute, the city's elite residents were the only ones who could afford a formal education for their children. Although many parents did not have much schooling themselves, they were anxious to provide their children with a quality education. Schools opened in the city as early as 1801, but many of the wealthiest families continued to rely on private tutors or out-of-state institutions, some sending their children as far as England and Scotland. The city founded the Natchez Institute to offer free education to the rest of the white residents. Although children from a variety of economic backgrounds could obtain an education, class differences persisted among students, particularly in terms of school choice and social ties. Although it was considered illegal, black slave children were often taught the alphabet and reading the Bible by their white playmates in private homes.[12]

American Civil War (1861–1865)

William Henry Elder, Bishop of Natchez
Union Army forces under U.S. Grant occupied Rosalie Mansion in Natchez after the Battle of Vicksburg in 1863.

During the Civil War, Natchez remained largely undamaged. The city surrendered to Flag-Officer David G. Farragut after the fall of New Orleans in May 1862.[13] Two civilians, an elderly man and an eight-year-old girl named Rosalie Beekman, were killed when a Union ironclad shelled the town from the River. The man died of a heart attack and Rosalie was killed by a shell fragment. Union troops under Ulysses S. Grant occupied Natchez in 1863; Grant set up his temporary headquarters in the Natchez mansion Rosalie.[14]

Some Natchez residents remained defiant of the Federal authorities. In 1864, William Henry Elder, the Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Natchez, refused to obey a Federal order to compel his parishioners to pray for the President of the United States. U.S. officials arrested Elder, jailed him briefly, and banished him across the river to Confederate-held Vidalia. Elder was eventually allowed to return to Natchez and resume his clerical duties there. He served until 1880, when he was elevated to Archbishop of Cincinnati.

Ellen Shields's memoir reveals a Southern woman's reactions to Yankee military occupation of the city. Shields' memoir portrays the upheaval of Southern society during the war. Because Southern men were absent at war, many elite women had to exercise their class-based femininity and sexual appeal to deal with the Yankees.[15]

In 1860, there were 340 planters in the Natchez region who each owned 250 or more slaves; not all of these were enthusiastic Confederates. The exceptions tended to be fairly recent arrivals to the South, men who opposed secession, and some who held social and economic ties to the North. These planters lacked a strong emotional attachment to the South; but when war came, many of their sons and nephews joined the Confederate army anyway.[16] Charles Dahlgren was among the recent migrants; from Philadelphia, he had made his fortune before the war. He did support the Confederacy and led a brigade, but was criticized for failing to defend the Gulf Coast. When the Yankees came, he moved to Georgia for the duration of the war. He returned in 1865 but never recouped his fortune. He had to declare bankruptcy, and in 1870 he gave up and moved to New York City.[17]

Confederate graves in a portion of the Natchez City Cemetery

White Natchez residents became much more pro-Confederate 'after' the war. The Lost Cause myth arose as a means for coming to terms with the South's defeat. It quickly became a definitive ideology, strengthened by celebratory activities, speeches, clubs, and statues. The major organizations dedicated to creating and maintaining the tradition were the United Daughters of the Confederacy and United Confederate Veterans. In Natchez and other cities, although the local newspapers and war veterans played a role in the maintenance of the Lost Cause, elite white women were particularly important—especially in establishing cemeteries and memorials, such as the Civil War monument dedicated on Memorial Day 1890. The Lost Cause enabled (white) noncombatants to lay a claim to the watershed event in the reshaping of Southern history.[18]

Postwar period (1865–1900)

Natchez Convention Center is across from the Grand Hotel.
Grand Hotel in downtown Natchez
Bowie's Tavern at 84 Homochitto Street in downtown Natchez

Natchez made a rapid economic comeback in the postwar years, with the resumption of much of the commercial shipping traffic on the Mississippi River. The cash crop was still cotton, but gang agricultural slave labor came to be largely replaced by sharecropping, in which freedmen felt they had some independence. In many families, women left field labor to care for their own people. During hard times, they might work for their family and later had to take up domestic service.

In addition to cotton, the development of local industries such as logging added to the exports through the city's wharf. In return, Natchez saw an influx of manufactured goods from northern markets such as Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.

The city's prominent place in Mississippi River commerce during the nineteenth century was reflected by the naming of nine steamboats Natchez, which traveled the lower river between 1823 and 1918. Many were built for and commanded by the famous Captain Thomas P. Leathers, whom Jefferson Davis had wanted to head the Confederate defense fleet on the Mississippi River. (This appointment never was concluded.) In 1885, the Anchor Line, known for its luxury steamboats operating between St. Louis and New Orleans, launched its "brag boat", the City of Natchez. This ship operated for a year before being lost to a fire at Cairo, Illinois, on 28 December 1886. Since 1975, an excursion steamboat at New Orleans has borne the name Natchez.

Such river commerce sustained the city's economic growth until just after the turn of the twentieth century, when steamboat traffic began to be replaced by the railroads. The city's economy declined over the course of the 20th century, as did that of many Mississippi River towns bypassed by railroad traffic. Tourism has helped to compensate for the decline.

After the war and during Reconstruction, the world of domestic servants in Natchez changed somewhat in response to emancipation and freedom. After the Civil War, most domestic servants continued to be black women. Often, the women were supporting children; although they were poorly paid, their domestic work produced important income for family maintenance. White employers often continued the paternalism that had characterized relations between slaveholders and slaves. They often preferred black workers to white servants. White men and women who worked as domestics generally held positions such as gardener or governess, while black servants worked as cooks, maids, and laundresses.[19]

Since 1900

A view of downtown Natchez

For a short time, the women's school Stanton College in Natchez educated daughters of the white elite. It was located in Stanton Hall, built as a private mansion in 1858. During the early 20th century, the college was a site of negotiation, as daughters of the traditional planter class encountered those of the new commercial elite. Other interplay took place between traditional parents and their more modern daughters. The young women joined social clubs and literary societies, which helped to maintain relations among cousins and family friends. The coursework included classes in proper behavior and letter writing, as well as skills that might enable those suffering from genteel poverty to make a living. The girls often balked at dress codes and rules, but also replicated their parents' social values. Stanton Hall was designated as a National Historic Landmark in the late 20th century.[20]

Located on the Mississippi River, the town long had an active nightlife, featuring jazz and blues created and played by Black American musicians. On April 23, 1940, 209 people died in a fire at the Rhythm Night Club, a black dance hall in Natchez.[21] The local paper remarked that "203 black bought 50 cent tickets to eternity."[22] This fire has been noted as the fourth-deadliest fire in U.S. history.[23] Several blues songs pay tribute to this tragedy and mention the city of Natchez.[24]

Industrial companies were located in Natchez in the 1960s, bringing jobs that were important to the city. Among them was Armstrong Tire and Rubber company. Such companies tended to repeat the pattern of segregation, keeping African Americans confined to lower level jobs. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) encouraged them to end such restrictions.

Civil Rights Era

Natchez City Hall on South Pearl Street

In the early 1960s, as the civil rights movement gained some successes and James Meredith was admitted as the first black to the University of Mississippi, Natchez was the center of Ku Klux Klan activity opposing integration and the movement. E. L. McDaniel, the Grand Dragon of the United Klans of America, the largest Klan organization in 1965,[25] had his office in Natchez at 114 Main Street. In August 1964, McDaniel established a klavern of the UKA in Natchez, operating under the cover name of the Adams County Civic and Betterment Association.

Despite the violence, Forrest A. Johnson, Sr., a well-respected white attorney in Natchez, began to speak out and write against the Klan. From 1964 through 1965, he published an alternative newspaper called the Miss-Lou Observer, in which he weekly took on the Klan. Klansmen and their supporters conducted an economic boycott against his law practice, nearly ruining him financially.[26]

In his October 1964 report, A.E. Hopkins, an investigator for the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, a tax-supported organization that sponsored surveillance of residents, wrote that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was in Adams County in force

"because of the alleged burning of several churches in that area as well as several bombings and the whipping of several Negroes; also, because of the murder of two Negroes from Meadville whose bodies were recovered from the Mississippi river while the murders of three civil rights workers from Philadelphia was being investigated by Federal, State and local officials."[26]

[27] By that time, more than 100 FBI agents were in the area as part of the Philadelphia investigation; three civil rights workers had disappeared and that summer were found murdered and buried in an earthen dam.

The FBI was also trying to keep racial violence under control. Bill Williams, an FBI agent in Natchez for two years during that time, said in a 2005 interview that the "race wars in the area are 'a story never told.' He said that Natchez in 1964 had become the 'focal point for racial, anti-civil rights activity for the state for the next several years'."[26]

Murders of four other African-American men in this area in 1964 are attributed to Klan members.[28] Other Klan murders of activists followed in succeeding years, despite or in resistance to Congressional passage of civil rights legislation.

As Klan violence rose in the 1960s, African Americans organized an armed paramilitary group called the Deacons for Defense and Justice, borrowing from a Louisiana group. They began to accompany NAACP officers and protesters, and carried weapons openly under Mississippi law.

George Metcalf and Wharlest Jackson, Sr. both worked for the Armstrong Tire and Rubber Plant, where they tried to open more positions to African Americans. They were both active in the Natchez chapter of the NAACP: Metcalf as president and Jackson as treasurer. On February 27, 1967, Wharlest Jackson Sr. was killed when a car bomb went off in his truck as he drove home from work. He had recently received a raise and promotion to a position previously "reserved" for whites. A Korean War veteran, he was married with five children. His murder was never solved, and no one has been charged in the crime.[29]

In August 1967, Metcalf submitted a petition in favor of school integration to the school board. (The Supreme Court had ruled segregated public schools as unconstitutional in 1954.) He asked the board not to publish the names of signatories to the petition, but they released the list. Little more than a week later, Metcalf was seriously injured in a car bombing. It was never solved.[30]

In response to these attacks, the Natchez Deacons for Defense stepped up their visible presence. All the men were already members of the NAACP and well-known to each other. They maintained secrecy about the group, evading investigation by the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission and others. This group was important in the community; its members and numbers were kept secret, but they created a defense and warning against violent attacks of blacks. In addition to protecting activists, the Deacons helped enforce initiatives of the civil rights movement, such as a commercial boycott of white-owned stores in a successful effort to win concessions in integration from retailers and the city. Chapters of the Deacons were organized in other Mississippi areas.

In 1966, the House Un-American Activities Committee published the names of Natchez residents who were current or former members of the Klan, including more than 70 employees at the International Paper plant in the city, as well as members of the Natchez police and the Adams County Sheriff's departments.[22] HUAC found that at least four white supremacist terrorist groups were operating in Natchez during the 1960s, including the Mississippi White Caps. The MWC distributed flyers anonymously around the city, threatening "crooks and mongrelizers." The Americans for the Preservation of the White Race was founded in May 1963 by nine residents of Natchez.[22]

The Cottonmouth Moccasin Gang was founded by Claude Fuller and Natchez Klansmen Ernest Avants and James Lloyd Jones. In June 1966, they murdered Natchez resident Ben Chester White, reportedly as part of a plot to draw Dr. Martin Luther King to Natchez in order to assassinate him. The three Klansmen were arrested and charged by the state with the murder. In each case, despite overwhelming evidence and, in Jones' case, a confession, either the charges were dismissed or the defendants were acquitted by all-white juries.[31] Blacks had been excluded from juries for decades as they had been disenfranchised since 1890 by a new state constitution and unable to vote. By 1966 the Voting Rights Act had been passed, but courts used other means to exclude them from juries; while many blacks were still registering to vote.

Prosecution of civil rights cold cases

James Ford Seale, one of two men arrested in November 1964 as a suspect in the kidnapping and murders of Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Henry Moore, was released when the state district attorney decided evidence was insufficient. Interest in the case was revived after 2000, when FBI files from 1964 were recovered by journalists. The FBI re-opened the investigation. Seale was arrested and charged by the US Attorney. He was tried and convicted in federal court in 2007. He died in federal prison in 2011 at the age of 76.

The FBI discovered that 67-year-old Ben Chester White, murdered in June 1966, had been killed on federal land near Pretty Creek in the Homochitto National Forest of Natchez. As a result they could establish federal jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute this case. In 1999, the case was reopened.[32] Authorities indicted Ernest Avants in 2000 for the murder. He was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to life in prison; he died the following year at the age of seventy-two.[33]

In February 2011, The Injustice Files of the Investigation Discovery channel aired three TV episodes of cold case murders related to the civil rights era. The first episode was devoted to the story of Wharlest Jackson, Sr., killed in 1967, as noted above. This was part of a collaboration with the FBI, which had started an initiative in 2007 to investigate and prosecute civil rights cases.[34]

Natural disasters

In August 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Natchez served as a refuge for coastal Mississippi and Louisiana residents, providing shelters, hotel rooms, rentals, Federal Emergency Management Agency disbursements and animal shelters. Natchez was able to keep fuel supplies open for the duration of the disaster, provide essential power to the most affected areas, receive food deliveries, and maintain law and order while assisting visitors from other areas. Many churches, including Parkway Baptist Church, were used as emergency shelters.[35] In the months after the hurricane, a majority of the available homes were purchased or rented, with some tenants making Natchez their permanent new home.

Flooding in 2011 drove the Mississippi River to crest at 61.9 feet (18.9 m) on May 19, the highest recorded height of the river since the 1930s.

Images and memory

Prominent families in Natchez have used the Natchez Pilgrimage, an annual tour of the antebellum mansions, to portray a nostalgic vision of its antebellum slaveholding society.[36] Since the Civil Rights Movement, however, this version has been increasingly challenged by blacks who have sought to add the black experience in Natchez to its public history.[37] According to the author Paul Hendrickson, "Blacks are not a part of the Natchez Pilgrimage."[22]

Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture at 301 Main Street

By the winter of 1988, the National Park Service established Natchez National Historical Park around Melrose mansion. The William Johnson House in the city was added a few years later. The tours given by the N.P.S. tend to present a more complex view of the past.

The historic district has been used by Hollywood as the backdrop for feature films set in the antebellum period. Disney's The Adventures of Huck Finn was partially filmed here in 1993. The 1982 television movie Rascals and Robbers: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn was also filmed here. The television mini-series Beulah Land was filmed in Natchez, as well a number of individual weekly shows of the TV drama The Mississippi, starring Ralph Waite. Parts of the television mini-series North and South were filmed in Natchez and neighboring Washington. Also, John Wayne's The Horse Soldiers was filmed in and around Natchez.

In 2007, a United States Courthouse was opened, after renovating a historic hall for changed use. Part of the old hall had a Jim Crow-era monument to the local men and women from Natchez and Adams County who served in World War I. The 1924 monument was the subject of several stories in the Natchez Democrat, as reporters noted it lacked representation of black Army troops who had served in the war. A 2010 article suggested updating the monument to reflect all the local troops, and retiring the old monument.[38] On November 10, 2011, new plaques were installed that include the names of 592 African-American soldiers and 107 white soldiers, none of whom had been listed on the old plaques.[39]

A cinema verité account of the 1960s Civil Rights movement in Natchez was depicted by the filmmaker Ed Pincus in his film Black Natchez (2010). The film highlights organizing of the black community in 1965-1967. A black leader has been car-bombed and a struggle ensues in the black community for control. A group of black men organize a chapter of the Deacons for Defense. The community splits between more conservative and activist elements.[40]

A Museum of African American History and Culture has been opened in Natchez.


Natchez is located at 31°33'16" latitude, 91°23'15" longitude (31.554393, −91.387566).[41]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.9 square miles (36 km2), of which 13.2 square miles (34 km2) are land and 0.6 square miles (1.6 km2) (4.62%) is water.


Natchez has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa) under the Köppen Climate Classification system.

Climate data for Natchez, Mississippi
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 83
Average high °F (°C) 58.3
Average low °F (°C) 37.5
Record low °F (°C) 4
Average precipitation inches (mm) 6.44
Source #1: The Weather Channel[42]
Source #2: Intellicast[43]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201515,128[44]−4.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[45]
House on Broadway Street, Eidelweiss

As of the census[46][47] of 2000, there were 18,464 people, 7,591 households, and 4,858 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,398.3 people per square mile (540.1/km²). There were 8,479 housing units at an average density of 642.1 per square mile (248.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 44.18% White, 54.49% African American, 0.11% Native American, 0.38% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.18% from other races, and 0.63% from two or more races. 0.70% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 7,591 households out of which 29.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.6% were married couples living together, 23.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.0% were non-families. 32.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 3.00.

In the city, the population was spread out with 26.5% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 24.3% from 25 to 44, 22.4% from 45 to 64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 81.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 76.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $25,117, and the median income for a family was $29,723. Males had a median income of $31,323 versus $20,829 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,868. 28.6% of the population and 25.1% of families were below the poverty line. 41.6% of those under the age of 18 and 23.3% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.


Natchez is home to Alcorn State University's Natchez Campus, which offers the School of Nursing, the School of Business, and graduate business programs. The School of Business offers Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree and other business classes from its Natchez campus. The MBA program attracts students from a wide range of academic disciplines and preparation from the Southwest Mississippi area and beyond.[48] Both schools in the Natchez campus provide skills which has enabled community students to have an important impact on the economic opportunities of people in Southwest Mississippi.[49] The Natchez Campus is a modern facility with several technology-driven amenities, such as campus-wide WiFi and electronic whiteboards for e-delivery of lectures. The School of Business from its Natchez Campus also offers other continuing education courses and workshops for the benefit of the regional community and businesses. The Natchez Campus also operates a satellite campus library.

Copiah-Lincoln Community College also operates a campus in Natchez.

The city of Natchez and Adams County operate one public school system, the Natchez-Adams School District. The district comprises eight schools. They are Susie B. West, Morgantown, Gilmer McLaurin, Joseph F. Frazier, Robert Lewis Middle School, Central Alternative School, Natchez High School, and Fallin Career and Technology Center.

In Natchez, there are a number of private and parochial schools. Trinity Episcopal Day School is a PK-12 school founded by Trinity Episcopal Church. Adams County Christian School (ACCS) is also a PK-12 school in the city. Trinity Episcopal Day School and Adams County Christian School are both members of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS). Cathedral School is also a PK-12 school in the city. It is affiliated with the Roman Catholic St. Mary Basilica. Holy Family Catholic School, founded in 1890, is a PK-3 school affiliated with Holy Family Catholic Church.


Adams County Correctional Center, a private prison operated by the Corrections Corporation of America on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is in an unincorporated area in Adams County, near Natchez.[50]



U.S. 61 runs north-south, parallel to the Mississippi River, linking Natchez with Port Gibson, Woodville, Mississippi and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

U.S. 84 runs east-west and bridges the Mississippi, connecting it with Vidalia, Louisiana and Brookhaven, Mississippi.

U.S. 65 runs north from Natchez along the west bank of the Mississippi. Louisiana 15 connects Ferriday with Clayton, at which Route 65 connects to Waterproof north to St. Joseph, Newellton, and Tallulah, Louisiana.

U.S. 98 runs east from Natchez towards Bude and McComb, Mississippi.

Mississippi 555 runs north from the center of Natchez to where it joins Mississippi Highway 554.

Mississippi 554 runs from the north side of the city to where it joins Highway 61, northeast of town.


Natchez is served by rail lines, which today carry only freight.


Natchez is served by the Natchez-Adams County Airport, a general aviation facility. The nearest airports with commercial service are Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, 85 miles (137 km) to the south via US 61 and Alexandria International Airport, 82 miles (132 km) to the west via US 84 to LA-28W.


list of media in the Natchez micropolitan area or (Miss-Lou)


Channel Callsign Format Owner
1240 WMIS Blues Example
1450 WNAT News Talk Example


Channel Callsign Format Owner
88.9 WMAU Example Example
91.1 WASM Example Example
91.9 WYFQ Example Example
95.1 WQNZ Example Example
97.3 WKSO Example Example
97.7 WTYJ Example
103.9 WWUU Example Example
104.7 KWTG Example Example
107.1 KFNV Example Example


Natchez's surrounding communities (collectively known as the "Miss-Lou") include:

Notable people

See also


  1. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  2. "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Natchez city, Mississippi". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  3. "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): All places within Mississippi". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 Douglas C. Wells; Richard A. Weinstein (2007). "Extra regional contact and cultural interaction at the Coles Creek - Plaquemine transition: Recent data from the Lake Providence Mounds, East Carroll Parish, Louisiana". In Rees, Mark A.; Livingood, Patrick C. Plaquemine Archaeology. University of Alabama Press. pp. 38–55.
  5. "Louisiana Prehistory: Plaquemine Mississippian". Retrieved 2011-10-24.
  6. Barnett, Jr., James F. (2007). The Natchez Indians: a history to 1735. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p.80. ISBN 978-1-57806-988-0.
  7. Ginny Walker English, "Natchez Massacre 1729", State Coordinator, Mississippi American Local History Network, 2000–2001, accessed 3 May 2009
  8. The Natchez Indians; by Barnett, Jim; Mississippi History Now; accessed August 2015
  9. Peter Tonge, "Natchez: in 1850 half of the millionaires in the US lived here", The Christian Science Monitor, MARCH 22, 1983
  10. Jim Barnett and H. Clark Burkett, "The Forks of the Road Slave Market at Natchez," Journal of Mississippi History, Sept 2001, Vol. 63 Issue 3, pp 168–187
  11. Julia Huston Nguyen, "The Value of Learning: Education and Class in Antebellum Natchez," Journal of Mississippi History, Sept 1999, Vol. 61 Issue 3, pp 237–263,
  12. A. T. Mahan (1898). The Navy in the Civil War. London: Sampson Low, Marston, and Company. (available at
  13. "A Brief History of Rosalie Mansion", official website
  14. Joyce L.. Broussard, "Occupied Natchez, Elite Women, and the Feminization of the Civil War," Journal of Mississippi History, Summer 2008, Vol. 70 Issue 2, pp 179–208
  15. William K. Scarborough, "Not Quite Southern: The Precarious Allegiance of the Natchez Nabobs in the Sectional Crisis," Prologue, Winter 2004, Vol. 36 Issue 4, pp 20–29
  16. Herschel Gower, Charles Dahlgren of Natchez: The Civil War and Dynastic Decline (2003)
  17. Melody Kubassek, "Ask Us Not to Forget: The Lost Cause in Natchez, Mississippi," Southern Studies, 1992, Vol. 3 Issue 3, pp 155–170
  18. Julia Huston Nguyen, "Laying the Foundations: Domestic Service in Natchez, 1862–1877," Journal of Mississippi History, March 2001, Vol. 63 Issue 1, pp 34–60
  19. Cita Cook, "The Modernized Elitism of Young Southern Ladies at Early Twentieth-Century Stanton College," Journal of Mississippi History, Sept 2000, Vol. 62 Issue 3, pp 199–223
  20. Michael, Rugel (23 April 2011). "Natchez Burning: Anniversary of The Rhythm Club Fire". Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  21. 1 2 3 4 Hendrickson, Paul (2003). Sons of Mississippi. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40461-9.
  22. National Fire Protection Association.
  23. Luigi Monge. "Death by Fire: African American Music on the Natchez Rhythm Club Fire". in Robert Springer (1 June 2007). Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come from: Lyrics and History. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. 76ff. ISBN 978-1-934110-29-4. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
  24. "Emergence of the UKA". Anti-Defamation League. 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
  25. 1 2 3 Donna Ladd, "Evolution of A Man: Lifting The Hood In South Mississippi", Jackson Free Press, 26 October 2005, accessed 15 October 2011
  26. Note: Hopkins was referring to the murders of the 19-year-old black men Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee of Franklin County, Mississippi.
  27. "Cold Case: After 50 years, DOJ says it’s uncertain who killed Frank Morris; closes case", Concordia Sentinel, 5 February 2014, accessed 11 January 2015
  28. Donna Ladd, "Daddy, Get Up: This Son of Natchez Wants Justice, Too", Jackson Free Press, 26 October 2005, accessed 16 October 2011
  29. Adams County Key People: George Metcalf and Wharlest Jackson, Mississippi Civil Rights Project
  30. Newton, Michael (2010). The Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi: a History. McFarland and Company. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-7864-4653-7. (available on Google books)
  31. Kevin Cooper, "White was an unlikely Klan target", Natchez Democrat, 5 December 1999, accessed 16 October 2011
  32. "Ben Chester White", Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, Northeastern University, 2011, accessed 16 October 2011
  33. Felicia R. Lee, "TV Series Tries to Revive Civil Rights Cold Cases", New York Times, 15 February 2011, accessed 16 October 2011
  34. Crouch, Andy. "It's Not About Power". Christianity Today. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  35. Hoelscher, Steven (September 2003). "Making Place, Making Race: Performances of Whiteness in the Jim Crow South". Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 93 (3): 657–686. doi:10.1111/1467-8306.9303008. JSTOR 1515502. (registration required (help)).
  36. Jack E Davis, "A Struggle for Public History: Black and White Claims to Natchez's Past," Public Historian, Jan 2000, Vol. 22 Issue 1, pp 45–63
  37. "Names to be added to war plaques", Natchez Democrat, 4 November 2010
  38. , Natchez Democrat, 11 November 2011
  39. See "Ed Pincus’s Black Natchez (1967)," F.I.L.M. 2010, Hamilton University Film Series
  40. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  41. "Monthly Averages for Natchez, MS". Retrieved 8 April 2010.
  42. "Intellicast – Natchez Historic Weather Averages". Retrieved 8 April 2010.
  43. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  44. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  45. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  46. 2000 census data for Natchez
  49. "Adams County Correctional Center." Corrections Corporation of America. Retrieved on June 28, 2016. "20 Hobo Fork Road, Natchez, MS 39120"
  50. 1 2 Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607–1896. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who. 1963. ISBN 1-299-64851-7.
  51. James Matthew Reonas, Once Proud Princes: Planters and plantation Culture in Louisiana's Northeast Delta, From the First World War Through the Great Depression (PDF). Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Ph.D. dissertation, December 2006, pp. 263-264. Retrieved July 19, 2013.
  52. "113. Charles C. Cordill". Retrieved July 19, 2013.
  53. James Matthew Reonas, Once Proud Princes: Planters and plantation Culture in Louisiana's Northeast Delta, From the First World War Through the Great Depression (PDF). Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Ph.D. dissertation, December 2006, pp. 245-246. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
  54. "Terry Wayne Gee, Sr. Obituary". New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  55. A Guide to the Abijah Hunt Papers, 1800-1821, 1880, The University of Texas at Austin: Briscoe Center for American History
  56. National Park Service. The Barber of Natchez: The Life of William Johnson
  57. Mildred Methvin. "Myrtis Lucille Gregory Methvin". Lafayette, Louisiana: Retrieved October 11, 2014.
  58. Maude K. Barton (1915-03-14). "Historic Cemeteries of Natchez". Natchez Democrat. Retrieved 2009-11-03. External link in |publisher= (help)
  • Anderson, Aaron D. Builders of a New South: Merchants, Capital, and the Remaking of Natchez, 1865-1914. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2013.
  • Boler, Jaime Elizabeth. City under Siege: Resistance and Power in Natchez, Mississippi, 1719–1857, PhD. U. of Southern Mississippi, Dissertation Abstracts International 2006 67(3): 1061-A. DA3209667, 393p.
  • Brazy, Martha Jane. An American Planter: Stephen Duncan of Antebellum Natchez and New York, Louisiana State U. Press, 2006. 232 pp.
  • Broussard, Joyce L. "Occupied Natchez, Elite Women, and the Feminization of the Civil War," Journal of Mississippi History, 2008 70(2): 179–207,
  • Cox, James L. The Mississippi Almanac. New York: Computer Search & Research, 2001. ISBN 0-9643545-2-7.
  • Davis, Jack E. Race Against Time: Culture and Separation in Natchez Since 1930, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001.
  • Davis, Ronald L. F. Good and Faithful Labor: from Slavery to Sharecropping in the Natchez District 1860-1890, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982.
  • Gandy, Thomas H. and Evelyn. The Mississippi Steamboat Era in Historic Photographs: Natchez to New Orleans, 1870–1920. New York: Dover Publications, 1987.
  • Gower, Herschel. Charles Dahlgren of Natchez: The Civil War and Dynastic Decline Brassey's, 2002. 293 pp.
  • Inglis, G. Douglas. "Searching for Free People of Color in Colonial Natchez," Southern Quarterly 2006 43(2): 97–112
  • James, Dorris Clayton. Ante-Bellum Natchez (1968), the standard scholarly study
  • Libby, David J. Slavery and Frontier Mississippi, 1720–1835, U. Press of Mississippi, 2004. 163 pp. focus on Natchez
  • Nguyen, Julia Huston. "Useful and Ornamental: Female Education in Antebellum Natchez," Journal of Mississippi History 2005 67(4): 291–309
  • Nolan, Charles E. St. Mary's of Natchez: The History of a Southern Catholic Congregation, 1716–1988 (2 vol 1992)
  • Way, Frederick. Way's Packet Dictionary, 1848–1994: Passenger Steamboats of the Mississippi River System Since the Advent of Photography in Mid-Continent America. 2nd ed. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1994.
  • Wayne, Michael. The Reshaping of plantation Society: The Natchez District, 1860–1880 (1983).

Further reading

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