Black Meetings and Tourism

September/October 2014

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Page 17 of 52

G reetings, faithful readers. I hope your summer is going well and you are enjoying reading my columns along with exciting museum jaunts. First Lady Michelle Obama Did you know First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the keynote address at The Grammy Museum's Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon on July 16, 2014, at Club Nokia at L.A. LIVE? The event honored Southern California-based educator Sunshine Cavalluzzi and six- time Grammy nominee Janelle Monáe. Building on the mus eum's suc- cessful education programs and initia- tives, the Jane Ortner Educator Award honors educators who find innovative ways to engage students by integrating music in their classrooms and First Lady Michelle Obama has made arts and edu- cation a top priority. Promoting service and working with young people has remained a staple of her career and her inter- est. Mrs. Obama's Reach Higher initiative focuses on the impor- tance of pursuing and completing some form of hi gher education, and encourages students to do their part to answer the President's call to ensure that by the year 2020, America once again has the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. Under her leadership, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities continues to compile an impressive legacy, conduct- ing major research and policy analysis, and catalyzing important federal cultural programs, both domestic and international. Most recently, Mrs. Obama hosted the first-ever White House Turnaround Arts Talent Show, highlighting the schools and com- munities using the arts to help turnaround some of our most trou- bled schools. Natchez Association of Afro-American History and Culture Museum, Natchez, Mississippi The story of slavery and African-Americans in Natchez is one of the most complex threads of the city's history — one that will never be exhausted, no matter how many articles, books and films explore it. The first African slaves arrived at the French settle- ment of Fort Rosalie in 1719, and that legacy lives on today in nearly every brick and beam of the elaborate mansions of Natchez, materials placed by the hands of Africans both enslaved and free. In the 1800s, the Forks of the Road slave market in Natchez was one of the largest in the Deep South, but in the decades before the Civil War, Natchez was also home to the largest community of free people of color in Mississippi. In 1871, Natchez was the only municipality in Mississippi to elect an African-American mayor, Robert Wood. Less than 20 years later, Mississippi adopted a constitution that effectively ended Black politic al power through literacy tests and poll taxes. Up against "Jim Crow Laws," discrimina- tion and segregation, some members of the Black com- munity still thrived as doctors, merchants, educators and businessmen. Black-owned businesses and Black churches in and around Natchez, including Beulah Baptist, Rose Hill Baptist, Holy Family Catholic and St. John United Methodist, served as gather- ing places where the African-American community formulated strategies for change. Only after decades of violence did African-Americans in Natchez achieve full voting rights along with desegregated schools and public spaces. Within a single generation, African-Americans were being elected as state legislators, judges and city officials, including, once more, mayor. These stories and many others about African-American history are told in the exhibitions at the Natchez Association of Afro- American History and Culture Museum. Currently, in addition to their permanent art collection, they have Richard Wright, Cotton, Black and White, 1930's Home Items and Photographs from glass negatives exhibitions. For more information, call 601-445-0728. MICHELLE OBAMA PAIRING WITH THE GRAMMY FOR EDUCATION AND THE NATCHEZ ASSOCIATION OF AFRO-AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE MUSEUMS BY PATRICIA ANN JORDAN B M & T ••• September/October 2014 ••• 17

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