[y] Jackson MS Visitors Guide
Jackson, the largest city as well as the capital of Mississippi, is located on the western banks of the beautiful Pearl River and is served by the Ross Barnett Reservoir. Jackson remained a very small town for most of the nineteenth century and did not see large scale growth until the late 1970s. Even with its population nearing 200,000, Jackson still has a small, home town atmosphere. It is the seat of Hinds County, but parts of the city are also located in Madison and Rankin counties as well. Jackson is a government, commercial, manufacturing, telecommunications, and distribution center producing many things such as electrical equipment and machinery, processed food, and metal products. The surrounding agricultural areas produce livestock, soybeans, cotton, and poultry.
Jackson is located in the heart of Mississippi at the intersections of Interstate 55, running north and south, and Interstate 20 running east and west and is accessible by air, train, or boat. The city itself has about 180,000 with the greater metro area reaching over 500,000. It is a very diverse area serving many different cultures.
Jackson is home to many historical buildings and was the site of many important happenings in history, especially during the Civil War. The residents of Jackson have not forgotten the south they came from and keep the sense of history alive even today. Being located in the deep south, Jackson is rich in African-American heritage. The black population has not forgotten this heritage and to this day the city has African-American affiliated colleges as well as many cultural spots dedicated to preserving their music and art, such as the New Age Theater, the Farish Street District, and the Black Arts Music Society.
Perhaps because Jackson is so historically, culturally, and ethnically rich, it has produced many famous names, such as famous country singer-songwriters Faith Hill and LeAnn Rimes. Other entertainers from Jackson include jazz singer Cassandra Wilson, blues musician Otis Spann, gospel singer Dorothy Moore, and R&B; entertainer Fern Kinney. Famous playwrights and writers from Jackson are Beth Henley, Vic Fleming, Margaret Walker Alexander, and Richard Ford. Famous sports stars from Jackson are basketball players James Robinson, Othella Harrington, Lindsey Hunter, and NFL football star, Walter Payton. The inventor of Pine-Sol, Harry A. Cole, is from Jackson and perhaps the most well-known name from the town is the famous novelist and writer Eudora Welty. Some of these people are the reason Jackson is as well known as it is today. Most of these names still frequent Jackson on occasion and most have made some form of a donation to the city, proving that their hometown still holds a place in their heart. Jackson is determined to shed the stereotype of “Old Mississippi” it has received over the years. They have begun many programs to try and improve the quality of life for all citizens by community building, promoting and maintaining education, economic and business prosperity, and keeping neighborhoods safe. One program that has proved to be a great help in these actions is the FABRIC (For A Better, Revitalized, Inclusive, Community) plan. Over 500 citizens have given their thoughts and inputs into this plan by attending focus groups, youth workshops, public workshops, and surveys. This plan has already made a few steps forward but is still in the developmental stages. This just goes to prove that the city that is now known as “The Best of the New South” is doing everything it possibly can to live up to its name and high expectations.
Jackson is preparing for a future that education, training programs, and community services will all play a large part. They are striving for excellence in the school systems, libraries, health care, city services, and cultural opportunities. In doing this they are making it possible for every Jackson resident to fully experience everything the city has to offer. One key thing Jackson is trying to do to improve the quality of life for all residents is improving race relations in Jackson’s diverse melting pot of a population. They have done a wonderful job of this and various races have moved beyond tolerance into respect.
The city is a unique mix of the southern roots of the old south and the new millennium. Jacksonian’s are extremely proud of their southern background, famed southern hospitality, and high quality of life. Community support is strong for its parks and wildlife, cultural events, festivals, and sporting teams. Jackson is a city that houses many wonderful citizens that are all dedicated to making Jackson one of America’s most livable cities. The residents have done their job as Jackson is currently listed as fourth on the list of America’s most livable mid-sized cities.
Jackson MS Quick Facts
- City Population: 184,256
- Female: 53.5%
- Male: 46.5%
- Average Age: 31
- Richmond Metro Surrounding Area: 510,000
- State Nickname: “The Magnolia State” or “Hospitality State”
- Jackson’s City Nickname: “The Bold New City” or “Best of the New South”
- Area: 106.8 miles (276.7 km)
- Water Area: 1.9 miles (5.0 km)
- Median Household Income: $30,414
- Average Annual Rainfall: 55.9 in/year (4.65 in/month)
- Average Annual Snowfall: 1 inch
- Average Temperature in January: 45 degrees
- Average Temperature in July: 81 degrees
The Jackson Zoo caters to a very diverse audience and has over 200,000 visitors annually. It was opened in 1919 on 110 acres and is host to 120 different species (18 of which are endangered), 776 animals, and has 23 special survival programs.
The Old Capital Museum was constructed in 1833 and served as the state capital, the state office building, and a state historical museum. The building was turned into a museum in 1903 when a new capital building was built. The Old Capital building saw many historical events, including the passage of the first law giving property rights to women in 1839, the ordinance of secession in 1861, Jefferson Davis’ final address, and the establishment of the first American state-supported college for women.
The Governor’s Mansion in Jackson is a historical “Greek Revival” type structure where the governor’s current living quarters are adjoined with the historical section of the building. The governor’s mansion was built and first occupied in 1842. It is the second oldest continuously occupied residence for governors in the United States. It was used as a hospital during the Civil War and was the scene of General Sherman’s victory dinner after the fall of Vicksburg.
The Medgar Evers Home Museum is the old home-place of the Civil Rights hero who was murdered on the steps of this very home. The museum now is the place for all of the relics of his life and work.
“The Park” is an amusement park of sorts located in Jackson that is a great spot for family entertainment. It features an 18-hole miniature golf course, batting cages, race track, ice skating rink, and arcade.
The Civil Rights Driving Tour is a guided tour approximately a four hours ride through the deep south showcasing Jackson, Mississippi and its key buildings, churches, and restaurants that played a key part in the civil rights movement.
The Farish Street District gets its name from a former slave who settled in the area, Walter Farish. It is one of the “Historically Black Districts” listed in the National Register and was once the sit for many political, racial, religious, and entertainment activities and it still is. In the District, you will find many quaint shops, galleries, and boutiques, along with the traditional dining of “soul food”. It is also filled with many restaurants and nightclubs and with a little more renovation is expected to compete with Beale Street in Memphis and Bourban Street in New Orleans.
Jackson is the host to many annual events and festivals. The biggest event is probably the Mississippi State Fair held every year in Jackson at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds in October. It lasts for an entire week and has everything from petting zoos to concerts and pageants to livestock shows and cooking contests.
The Crossroads Film Festival is held at the end of March and beginning of April and is a huge celebration of the art of film-making, showing over 50 films and giving fans the opportunity to meet filmmakers and go through film-making workshops. The film festival lasts four days and features local, national, and international films.
Jubilee!Jam, held in June, is nearly a 20-year tradition and draws more than 45,000 people to Jackson every year. It provides many exciting music performances from artists like Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Al Green, The Temptations, Marty Stewart, and Blood Sweat & Tears to name a few.
A relatively new festival now being held in Jackson is the OUToberfest, which is a celebration of the state’s gay and lesbian community. It features many local and national organizations, groups, businesses, artists, and musicians.
The Festival Latino is held in September and it features crafts, music, and dance from the Caribbean Islands and South American countries.
Jackson is home to their own, Mississippi Braves, an AA affiliate of the Atlanta, Braves. The Minor League team is a member of the Southern League and plays in their newly renovated, Trustmark Park. The Smith-Will’s Stadium is an all-purpose stadium in Jackson that is home to the Jackson Senators baseball team (Central Baseball Association) but is also used for football games, soccer games, and other various events. The Mississippi Hardhats, a member of the World Basketball Organization, are located here as well.
Jackson is the place to go for golfers, with many golf courses over the area. There are 18 whole courses at the Sonny Guy Municipal Golf Course, Patrick Farms Golf Course, Live Oaks Golf Course, LeFleur’s Bluff Golf Course, Grove Park Golf Course, and Brookwood Country Club.
One of Jackson’s main cultural groups is the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, which began in 1944 and was originally called the Jackson Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra plays at various churches on occasion and a series of special concerts statewide over the course of a year. Approaching it’s 60th anniversary, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra is one of Jackson’s strongest cultural forces.
Ballet Mississippi is one of Jackson’s premier art exhibitions. Ballet Mississippi hosts the USA International Ballet Competitions every four years, turning Jackson into the dance capital of the world. Ballet Mississippi is also the host of a dance school for ballet and modern dancers from across the nation.
The Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi presents craft exhibits and events and is one of the largest in the nation. Each year over 150,000 people attend the Guild programs.
The Mississippi Art museum is the largest in the state and is home to some extraordinary works of art. The museum began in 1911 with the purpose of promoting works by native Mississippi artists, sculptors, and writers. The museum, aside from having over 3,000 works from around the world, still pays tribute to artists from Mississippi, with artists like Walter Anderson, Marie Hull, Leon Koury, John McGrady, Karl Wolfe, and William Hollingsworth comprising and important part of the museums exhibits.
The Jackson Municipal Art Gallery originally began in a local, privately-owned home and is one of the oldest surviving historic buildings in Jackson. It is a place for hundreds of local and regional artists to show their works and presents a new exhibit every month.
The New Stage Theatre was funded in part by Eudora Welty in 1965 and is the only not-for-profit theater in the city. The theater produces five plays per year in addition to a Christmas performance, a student matinee, a series of one-acts opened to local actors, and a kids-only show featuring only local talent.
Jackson MS Restaurant Guide
Jackson is home to fine dining and many traditional southern restaurants. Southerners are very proud of their cooking capabilities and they have many restaurants serving authentic southern food, however, they also have every kind of restaurant imaginable ranging from Mexican to Italian to Cajun available as well. Favorite’s include:
Bon Ami, a decorated café serving unique blends of different French cuisine such as Sauteed Shrimp or Bon Ami Red Snapper.
Lone Star Steak House and Saloon is a full service, casual dining restaurant serving mesquite-grilled steaks, ribs, chicken, and fish. It is known among Jackson natives for it’s upbeat country music and neon signs.
The Fahrenheit Dining and Lounge feature good ol’ southern down-home cooking with dishes such as “Momma’s Meatloaf.”
Other favorites include the Chimneyville Steak House, Fenian’s Pub, the Bonsaid Steak House, and Crechale’s Restaurant.
The town of Jackson is just big enough that there is always something to do, and with all of the historical and cultural sites, parks, shopping, fine dining, and events, it is not difficult to find something that you will enjoy. With its many cultural, social, and civic organizations, Jackson gives its residents many ways to get involved in the community and in community events. Even though it is the capital and the largest city in “The Magnolia State”, Jackson has still been able to keep that small-town atmosphere that it is known for. Jackson is the definition of southern hospitality and the citizens keep that feeling alive.
Jackson and all of its surrounding areas are very family-oriented, with some of the families still living on the same plantations or plantation sites that their ancestors did during the Civil War. Jackson is a wonderful place to live and those who reside there currently have turned Jackson into the fourth most livable mid-size city in America. The residents of Jackson have worked hard to keep the southern traditions alive while taking their place at the front of high-tech telecommunications at the same time.
History of Jackson MS
Jackson, Mississippi was originally the home to the Choctaw, Natchez, and Chickasaw Native America Indian tribes. When Louis LeFleur, a French-Canadian trapper, set up a trading post in the area in the late 1700s, it became known as LeFleur’s Bluff. The Mississippi State Legislature had originally named the state capital as Natchez, later moved it to Washington, but then saw the need for a centrally located capital city and so a survey team was sent to the area. After surveying both the northern and eastern sides of the state, Thomas Hinds, James Patton, and William Lattimore reported that the area of LeFleur’s Bluff was beautiful and healthy, had good water, abundant timber, navigable waters, and was close to the Natchez Trace. On November 28, 1821, it became the capital city and was renamed Jackson, after the famous Major General Andrew Jackson, who was the hero of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 and would become the seventh president of the United States. A special layout for the city was proposed by the nation’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, where the city was in a ‘checkerboard’ shape and alternating city blocks were in the form of parks. The main arrangement is still intact downtown, but most of the grassy park area has been removed.
Jackson has been a city of many firsts, and in 1839 was the site of the passing of the first state law allowing married women to own their own property. 1840 saw Jackson connected to other cities by railroad, which would later spark the growth of the city due to the American Civil War, making it a main supply line for the Confederate Army in the south. In 1846, the famous Jackson City Hall was built, which is still standing today.
Jackson’s history would be forever changed during the American Civil War. In January 1861, the Mississippi State Legislature, located in Jackson, made the decision for the state to secede from the Union. In 1863, the Union forces captured Jackson, winning the first Battle of Jackson and sending the Confederate troops north. Day’s later Union troops burned and looted the prime economic facilities in Jackson during the infamous “Sherman’s March” under the direction of the well-remembered General William Tecumseh Sherman. The only building spared from this horrific event was Jackson City Hall. There is a rumor that General Sherman bypassed the city hall because it housed a Masonic Lodge and he was a Mason. Another story says that it was used as a hospital, this probably is the reason it was not burned.
Union troops moved on to Vicksburg and the Confederate troops regrouped in Jackson. In July of 1863, the Siege of Jackson began and within a week Union troops burned the city for the second time. From this, the city earned its nickname “Chimneyville,” a tribute to the few things that were left standing after the war. By 1865, at the end of the Civil War, Mississippi’s agricultural economy was ruined, infrastructure was completely destroyed, and the look at recovery was not a good one. Almost all hope was gone for the south, but they persevered. Recovery was, indeed, extremely slow but Jackson finally began to regain a little of what it had lost by the late 1880s.
It was at this time that Jim Crow laws began to surface causing extreme racism that would end up haunting Jackson, as well as Mississippi as a whole, for years and years to come. The blacks living in the city were restricted to segregated neighborhoods, the largest of which was the Farish Street District.
Jackson’s population at the turn of the century was very small, less than 8,000 in fact. However, the number of people in the city began growing rapidly in the early 1900s. Jackson’s economy began to grow immensely in the 1930s due to the discovery of natural gas fields located nearby. The thirties also saw a cultural scene emerge in the Farish Street District, with places like the Crystal Palace Night Club and the Alamo Theater hosting names such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Lionel Hampton.
Jackson was one of the main sites of the American civil rights movement during the 1960s. Civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, and Medgar Evers made appearances and staged demonstrations to protest activities in churches, restaurants, and homes in Jackson and the surrounding areas. In May 1961, a large group of Freedom Riders was arrested in Jackson, making national headlines. Jackson was also the site of a famous sit-in by Anne Moody (local Jacksonian), John Salter and Joan Trunpauer at a local Woolworth’s lunch counter in May 1963.
There were many other sit-ins staged in Jackson as well as putting the city at the height of racial unrest. Then in June of 1963 Medgar Evers, the field secretary of the Mississippi NAACP, was murdered by a white supremacist, Byron de la Beckwith in the driveway of his home. Beckwith was tried twice and was found innocent both times by a completely white jury, but was finally convicted for the murder in 1994.
The state of Mississippi and the city of Jackson have come a long way in the last thirty years. They have obviously overcome many of their racial problems as Jackson elected its first African American mayor in 1997. They are a city on the rise, in the process of shaking off the ghosts of the past and looking towards a new and bright future.