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November 25, 2020

Federal historic site considered for former Mississippi slave market

A federal agency could put money toward the eventual development of a historical site that was once one of the largest slave markets in the United States.

Enslaved people were sold from 1833 to 1863 at the Forks of the Road site in Natchez, Mississippi. The site currently has a sign and a small monument made of concrete and shackles. Officials have been working since 2005 on proposals to turn it into a more detailed memorial.

“Of course, Black history is American history. But more than that, this is human history,” said Kathleen Bond, superintendent of Natchez National Historical Park. “We all understand the humanity of the different experiences people have had in this country. I think the healthiest thing is for us to be able to tell the truth and then work together.”

The U.S. Department of Interior has included $400,000 for Forks of the Road in a priority list of recommended spending from the federal Land Water Conservation Fund for the federal fiscal year that began Oct. 1, the Natchez Democrat reported. The federal budget has not been finalized.

Congress could give the National Park Service money to purchase privately and commercially-owned parcels within the 18-acre (7.3-hectare) Forks of the Road site, Bond said.

Bond told The Associated Press that $400,000 would buy some, but not all, of the privately-owned property.

Natchez is in the process of donating nine city-owned land parcels to the National Park Service to develop the area.

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said the inclusion of Forks of the Road in federal funding proposals was a result of the collaboration between Natchez, Adams County and lobbyists hired by the city and county. He said the funding proposal also received support from all of Mississippi’s congressional delegation.

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