Since 1984, the US Congress has established nearly 50 National Heritage Areas across our nation and Mississippi is honored to be one of only 16 states to have more than one. Mississippi boasts three
National Heritage areas, each recognized for its distinctive natural, cultural and historic resources that have made significant contributions to our nation’s collective heritage. Mississippians take pride in the
achievements and traditions of these storied areas, and with great passion, enjoy preserving and sharing them.
The Gulf Coast
At the center of the Gulf Coast story is the gulf itself and the region’s historical significance runs just as deep. The Gulf Coast’s pristine landscape and resourceful waters have been a long-time draw to the region beginning with the area’s prehistoric peoples and later colonial explorers. In 1699, French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville selected the site of present-day Ocean Springs to build a fort and made their capital the city of Biloxi, now recognized as one of the oldest continuously occupied communities in the United States. Power changed hands many times over the next centuries, with both Britain and Spain planting flags along the coast, adding to the area’s diverse cultural heritage. Historical structures such as Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ home Beauvoir, Fort Massachusetts and the circa 1848 Biloxi Lighthouse are treasured structures that recall the coast’s historical significance.
The Gulf Coast’s illustrious fishing heritage lives on across the gulf’s dark waters and the region’s many inland waterways. These waters run along sandy beaches, barrier islands, tranquil marshes and pine forests providing an ideal environment for sportsmen and beachgoers alike. This unmatched natural beauty is known to inspire as evidenced by the regions rich arts and cultural traditions, and local institutions such as the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art and the Alice Moseley Folk Art and Antique Museum. The Infinity Science Center at NASA’s Stennis Space Center embraces the coast’s spirit of exploration and shares it through interactive exhibits and a thrilling flight simulator.
The cultural influence of the 18 counties comprising the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is undeniable. The Delta is the birthplace of the blues, the site of the creation of rock ’n’ roll and maintains a creative culture unlike any other. While celebrated for its particular culinary, religious, artistic and literary heritage, the Delta has also seen hardship. The torment of the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement was felt here, but this is a region known to channel hardship to creativity. The region’s struggles and triumphs are preserved through historic landmarks such as Dockery Farms, and is evident in the antebellum homes, juke joints and churches scattered across expansive Delta farmland. The Delta story is best felt through its music that’s alive and well at institutions like the Blues Front Café and Club Ebony. The region’s musical heritage comes to life at the Delta Blues Museum, the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center and the GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi. Sights along the Mississippi Blues Trail and Mississippi Freedom Trail showcase the Delta’s many extraordinary individuals and stories.
Music isn’t the only creative expression the Delta is known for. Muppets creator Jim Henson was from the region and his namesake museum in Leland draws Kermit the Frog fans from around the world. The Delta Hot Tamale is a food-way unique to the Delta and true representation of the region’s diverse cultural heritage.
In northeast Mississippi, the base of the rugged Appalachian Mountains meets the vast expanse of the Delta, forging an area of significant natural beauty and immense cultural influence. The Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area has a rich Native American history that predates our nation and remains evident in the massive burial mounds throughout the region. Watershed moments in American history took place in the Hills, including decisive Civil War battles and later, notable events during the Civil Rights Movement.
With this region’s struggles, come even greater triumphs through the influence of famous figures from the area whose impact was lasting and extended far beyond the Mississippi Hills. Visit Tupelo to experience the birthplace of the “King of Rock ’n’ Roll,” Elvis Presley. Or visit Rowan Oak, the Oxford home of Nobel Prize- winning author, William Faulkner.
Preservation of historical sites is a priority in the Hills but conservation of the area’s natural beauty is paramount. Experience the natural landscapes of the Hills at Tishomingo State Park and the iconic Swinging Bridge. The scenic Natchez Trace Parkway extends more than 444 miles, across three states, with its visitor center located in Tupelo.
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