Nearly $25 million awarded to Mississippi city to help highlight landmarks of city, state and country’s Black history

Published 6:53 am Saturday, June 22, 2024

Nearly $25 million has been awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation to one Mississippi city to highlight important aspects of the city’s Black History.

The city of Natchez has been awarded a $24.57 million RAISE grant for the proposed Forks to Freedom Corridor. This substantial funding will transform key areas of the city, enhancing urban infrastructure and honoring historical Black figures like Hiram Revels.

Mayor Dan Gibson received the news from U.S. Senator Roger Wicker while attending a workforce development meeting at Alcorn State University. The announcement came as a poignant moment for Gibson, standing under a portrait of Revels, the first African American U.S. Senator. This grant marks the city’s second attempt to secure the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant.

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Last year, Natchez’s application was ranked highly but did not receive funding. Following a debriefing with the Department of Transportation, the city refined its application, ultimately securing the grant without needing matching funds.

Mayor Gibson credited a team effort involving local, state, and federal representatives. He highlighted the bipartisan support from U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson, who provided crucial assistance, and U.S. Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, who also supported the project.

The project received local backing from Kathleen Bond and the Natchez National Historical Park, as well as numerous community organizations and stakeholders. Key contributors included the Downtown Natchez Alliance, Friends of the Riverfront, and the Historic Natchez Foundation.

The grant will fund extensive improvements, creating an entrance to downtown Natchez from D’Evereux Drive, enhancing street and pedestrian infrastructure, and developing Hiram Revels Plaza. The project aims to boost tourism at the historic Forks of the Road site and restore the Old Washington Road brick bridge.

This initiative is expected to revitalize the historic Black business district, enhance economic vitality on D’Evereux Drive, and significantly impact local traffic and tourism. Robert Pernell, chairman of the U.S. Colored Troops Monument Committee, and Darryl White, who coined the phrase Forks to Freedom, expressed gratitude for the grant’s approval, recognizing its historical and cultural significance.

Kathleen Bond, superintendent of the Natchez National Historical Park, emphasized the project’s role in improving infrastructure and access to historic sites. Chesney Doyle of the Downtown Natchez Alliance noted the project’s broader implications for equity and community collaboration, reflecting the community’s aspirations for a brighter future.