Natchez is the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River. The city is and always has been a Mississippi River port town. Now, it’s primarily just where the tourists river boats that tie up.
In the city’s heyday, Natchez was a busy hub for shipping cotton. Prior to the Civil War, it was slave-raised cotton. The site of the second largest slave market in the South is at the Forks of the Road, where D’Evereaux Drive, Liberty Road and St. Catherine Street join and are adjacent to each other today.
This is the site that was transferred to the National Park Service to add to their historic properties in Natchez- along with Melrose Plantation, the William Johnson House, and the site of the French Fort Rosalie. Now, add to that the site of the Forks of the Road Slave Market.
There was an ordinance that enslaved people could not be bought or sold inside the city of Natchez itself, so just to the east where the original Natchez Trace met Washington Road, a rambling of low wooden buildings and open spaces were put together as a place for slave trade. Natchez didn’t have a monopoly on slave sales – Atlanta, Savanna, Louisville, even Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. had slave markets among others.
The slave market was closed as a market the same year of the Emancipation Proclamation, 1863. Now, this plot of land is owned by the United States as a remembrance of the period of time of slavery, a juxtaposed institution housed within, “The Land of the Free.”