Meridian, Miss. A line of people led the way from the MSU Riley Center to the heart of Meridian's African-American Business District along Fifth Street Tuesday morning for the unveiling of the city's Civil Rights Trail.
"We are storytellers in Mississippi, and this is our story," says Meridian-Lauderdale County Tourism Director, Dede Mogollon. "People come to Mississippi to hear what all has happened in Mississippi, and this is part of it; it provides civic pride for our community, and our state."
In all, the trail consists of 18 markers which spotlight the contributions of churches, businesses, civic groups and the Jewish community during the Civil Rights Era.
"It's about people wanting to know history, and about people coming into downtown, and actually coming to this city as a destination site," says Mayor Percy Bland. "Hopefully, these markers and this type of history will once again make Meridian a destination site."
Each marker provides access to a smart phone app that contains a short video about the site.
Given the history of both Lauderdale and Neshoba counties, Philadelphia Mayor James Young says the markers are good teaching tools to help locals learn from the past, and become even better in the future.
"Yes, we acknowledge the past, but we're moving forward for a greater future for our areas," says Young.
The first 7 markers are located within walking distance of each other in downtown Meridian. Tourism officials advise that at least two hours are needed to tour all of the sites on the trail. A free map for the Civil Rights Trail is available at the tourism office in downtown Meridian.