Preserving historically African American buildings in Meridian

Published: Feb. 16, 2017 at 6:33 PM CST
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The doors of several historically African American buildings in Meridian are closed right now. The cost of upkeep and operation has become too expensive. However, community members are searching for different avenues to keep them open.

In the 1900s many of the neighborhoods and businesses in Meridian were predominantly black. It is hard to tell that now because many of the old churches and buildings are torn down now.

The Wechsler Foundation is one organization trying to preserve the rich history. Edward Lynch says it has made leeway to renovate the state's first brick educational building for black students.

" Now we have people telling us what we need to do. And this is how you need to do it," said Lynch.

Mississippi's Department of Archives and History is offering 85-thousand dollars to the Weschler Foundation if they can match 21-thousand dollars. The organization asked the City of Meridian at a work session to help raise the money.

There are others making efforts to up some of the remaining historically black buildings in Meridian. Long-time church member Derron Radcliff says, "Newell Chapel is a pillar of the Meridian community. It has been here since 1889."

Radcliff says upkeep on the church's small congregation has been difficult. Until the building can be repaired, its doors are closed. The church structure is one of the original Central Methodist Episcopal structures.

"Every time you drive down 14th street you see this beautiful red brick church. So it is up to us to try to preserve it. That historic building is a part of Meridian," said Radcliff.

The historically black business district is also a part of Meridian Civil Rights Trail. Rep. Charles Young Jr. District 82 is interested in reviving the area. "Cleaners, movie theaters, barber and beauty shops, hotels, eateries, you name it, this is where it was", said Young.

Young says downtown construction has limited plans, but once the streets are repaired black business owners are prepared to move forward.

"We are ready to see about renovating and opening the doors again so that we can start bringing people back downtown," said Young