Civil Rights Tourism in Mississippi: Openings, Closures, Redemption and Remuneration
Tourism; Civil Rights; Politics of Memory; Race
Unlike Georgia and Alabama which have had large civil rights museums for many years, Mississippi is just beginning to acknowledge and memorialize this part of its history. Since 2005, visitors to Neshoba County, infamous for the murder of civil rights workers Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney, have been able to obtain copies of the African-American Heritage Driving Tour which directs tourists to nine points of interest associated with the 1964 killings. In examining this development, my aim is to highlight the diverse political, economic and psychological motives underlying civil rights tourism and the formation of the Philadelphia Coalition which came together to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the murders. In specific, this paper argues that civil rights tourism rests on four convergent trends: 1) the interest of the business community in re-imaging Mississippi, 2) the formation of a fragile alliance between white conservatives and moderate African-American leaders, 3) the search for redemption among white Christians, and 4) a growing concern over who will write Mississippi’s recent history.