NATCHEZ, Miss. (WJTV)- There are many Union Civil War soldiers buried in the Natchez National Cemetery– many of them African American. And not all of them died in the War. Most of them, in fact, came back home and took leadership roles in the community- making Natchez one of the leading centers for African American progress after the Civil War.
>> Darrell White: If Harlem had been considered the capital of Black America during the renaissance period- if you went back to the period of Reconstruction, the Capitol of Black America was here in Natchez.
>> Walt: That is Darrell White. He calls himself a Nat-CHOSE-ian, instead of Natchezian- because he moved here from New York and has CHOSEN to make Natchez his home.
He will be portraying one of the men buried in the National Cemetery this weekend- William Rochester. Rochester was the leader of the GAR- Grand Army of the Republic- for the area. Darrell’s estimation of Natchez being a leadership city for African Americans reinventing life for themselves after the Civil War is not an exaggeration.
>> Darrell: The first man of color having any official capacity in the history of this state having come form this community, and that would be John Roy Lynch. Hyrum Revels, first man of color to serve in EITHER house of the United States Congress- he was from this community.
>> Walt: Even the man Darrell is portraying this weekend, William Rochester- came home and was a pillar of the community.
>>Darrell: I can go to one of our old churches and there’s William Rochester’s name listed on the cornerstone of the church.
>> Walt: That’s the idea of the Black and Blue reenactment weekend- to remove the catch-all banner of “slave” or “former-slave” and replace it with names and faces and humanity- because these folks were people, not statistics.
>> Ser Boxley/Black and Blue organizer: Well if the ancestor’s humanity was denied during chattel slavery and the history of what they did is not known, then the humanity of us, their descendants, is denied.
>> Walt: So the weekend is a celebration of people who were NOT celebrated for well over a century- And only lately have slowly popped out and started becoming individuals. Your chance to meet some- this weekend at the Black and Blue Living History at Jefferson College in Natchez.
Walt Grayson- 12 News.