Learn from and engage with unique opportunities and places of historical significance during Black History Month in Coastal Mississippi! February presents educational, entertainment and engagement experiences for visitors and residents alike, paying homage to sacrifices, considering our progress, and reinforcing a commitment to an even brighter future. The points of interest, exhibits and more listed below create a phenomenal self-guided experience, or expand your trip by using our 2-day group itinerary

Significant Sites 

Biloxi Lighthouse & Visitors Center

Stop by the Biloxi Visitors Center and Lighthouse to explore the cultural influences of Biloxi. A portion of the historical exhibit features information about the Biloxi Wade Ins, taking place in the late 1950s into the early 1960s. A historical marker is located across the street nearby the Biloxi Lighthouse, detailing the events and celebrating the bravery of local physician Dr. Gilbert Mason Sr., who led the peaceful wade-ins. 

Pleasant Reed Home

Experience the Pleasant Reed House, located at Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi. At the Pleasant Reed Interpretive Center, learn from City Within a City: African American Culture in Biloxi. This exhibition highlights the cultural history of the vibrant, segregated “city within a city” of Biloxi, Mississippi during the post-WWII years.

St. Rose de Lima

The history of St. Rose de Lima Church and school are interrelated and it goes back over one hundred years. In 1868, the first school in Bay St. Louis for African Americans opened with 24 children in attendance. It was a two-story white building, originally located on Second Street. On August 28, 1925, the school became St. Rose de Lima Church. St. Rose de Lima is still an extremely active church and parish. It is home to one of the best Southern Gospel Choirs in the country, and its altar features an extraordinary mural of an African Christ figure rising before a live oak tree. Tours are by appointment only, and more information can be found here

100 Men Hall

The Mississippi Blues Trail - Blues Hall - The 100 Men D.B.A. Hall, a longtime center of African American social life and entertainment, was built in 1922 by the One Hundred Members’ Debating Benevolent Association. Over the years the association sponsored many events and also rented the hall to promoters who brought in blues, rhythm & blues, and jazz acts. Local residents have recalled performances by Etta James, Big Joe Turner, Guitar Slim, Irma Thomas, Professor Longhair, Ernie K-Doe, Deacon John, Earl King, and numerous others here. Events are held at the Hall year-round - check out the calendar here

Bay St. Louis 100 Men Hall BHM

If you are exploring Old Town Bay St. Louis during the month of February, you might notice 25 captivating posters in shop windows. Bay St. Louis celebrates the history of the African American community with portraits from the 100 Men Hall People Project - a joint effort from Ann Dinwiddie Madden, Chris Cochran, and 100 Men D.B.A. Hall to celebrate Black History Month. The 100 Men Hall People Project was partially funded by the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area to strengthen the bonds between the 100 Men Hall and the community. 

Historical Markers 

Visit the marker celebrating Dr. Felix Henry Dunn, African American physician who lived and practiced medicine in Gulfport from 1953 until 2002. He was president of the Gulfport Branch NAACP and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A champion of public housing and Head Start centers, Dr. Dunn was the first African American to serve on the Harrison County Development Commission.

Stop by one or all eight Blues Trail markers in Coastal Mississippi: 

Broadcasting the Blues

The Mississippi Blues Trail - Biloxi Blues - Historical marker celebrates the dozens of clubs and cafes in Biloxi that rocked to the sounds of blues, jazz, and rhythm & blues. 

Mississippi Blues Trail - Blues & Jazz - The histories of blues and jazz are often traced along separate pathways, but, especially on the Gulf Coast, the two genres were intertwined from the earliest days. Blues was a key element in the music of Pass Christian’s illustrious native son Captain John Handy (1900-1971) and other locals who played traditional jazz or rhythm & blues. Pass Christian has celebrated its rich African American musical heritage with various festivals, including "Jazz in the Pass," first held here in 1999.

The Mississippi Blues Trail - Blues Hall - The 100 Men D.B.A. Hall, a longtime center of African American social life and entertainment, was built in 1922 by the One Hundred Members’ Debating Benevolent Association. Over the years the association sponsored many events and also rented the hall to promoters who brought in blues, rhythm & blues, and jazz acts. Local residents have recalled performances by Etta James, Big Joe Turner, Guitar Slim, Irma Thomas, Professor Longhair, Ernie K-Doe, Deacon John, Earl King, and numerous others here. Events are held at the Hall year-round - check out the calendar here

The Mississippi Blues Trail - Broadcasting the Blues - When radio veteran and blues promoter Stan “Rip” Daniels launched WJZD radio in Gulfport on March 20, 1994, it became the first African American-owned FM station on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. According to the 2007 Broadcasting & Cable Yearbook, Mississippi had more stations (thirteen) regularly broadcasting under a blues format than any other state. In addition, specialized blues programs have been aired on various college, public, rock, oldies, and urban contemporary stations. Daniels took the blues concept a step further on October 1, 2000, when the American Blues Network transmitted its first satellite signals from the WJZD studios. Adopting a primary format of “party blues and oldies,” the ABN secured affiliations with dozens of stations across the country and put its programs on the internet as well. Daniels’s concert promotions also ensured support of the blues and southern soul performers on the Gulf Coast “chitlin’ circuit.”

The Mississippi Blues Trail - Gulfport Boogie - Gulfport was once home to an active rhythm & blues scene, particularly here in the North Gulfport area. Jaimoe, famed drummer with the Allman Brothers Band, was raised in Gulfport, as was the band’s onetime bassist Lamar Williams, and both performed in many clubs along the coast during their early years. Blues Hall of Fame pianist Roosevelt Sykes once lived here, and other Gulfport residents have included pianist Cozy Corley, singer Albennie Jones, and guitarist Blind Roosevelt Graves.

The Mississippi Blues Trail - Moss Point BluesMoss Point was a center of African American music as far back as 1898. Known Moss Point residents to play nationally (many graduates of Magnolia High School) include O.J. “Boss” Tatum, Lamar (“Buck”) Tatum, Elijah (“Prof") Tatum, Romie Nelson, Charles Fairley, Charles Polk, Clyde Needham, Reuben Betts.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Blues & Heritage Festival is part of the Mississippi Blues Trail. Since 1991 this festival has featured southern soul, blues, zydeco and gospel acts. Mississippi blues and soul headliners have included Bobby Rush, Theodis Ealey, O.B. Buchana and Nathaniel Kimble.

The Mississippi Blues Trail - Ocean Springs Blues - Notable African-American musicians born in Ocean Springs include Jaimoe (Johnnie Lee Johnson), a founding member of the Allman Brothers band. In 1995, Jaimoe and the other founding members of the Allman Brothers Band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2017, Jaimoe received the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts, from Mississippi. Henry Donahue, an accomplished guitarist and bandleader. Pianist Tempy Smith and her multi-talented children, who were renowned in the 1920s on the coast and later in New York City.

Events 

Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center of Arts and Education

The Mary C. Presents 'THE CODE' 

Listen, learn & enjoy an event series recognizing & honoring the dynamic history of African Americans at Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center of Arts & Education

February 15, 2020: MARKET & PANEL DISCUSSION
Local black businesses on the Coast will showcase and sell their products. The panel discussion from 3:30pm-4:30pm will discuss the history of local black businesses and culture of African Americans along the Coast.

February 28, 2020: LIVE PERFORMANCE
Featuring various talents along the Coast. This beautiful collaboration of singers, musicians and dancers will narrate African American history. Snacks & beverages will be available for purchase.

Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art After Hours: Black History Month

February 28, 2020: Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art After Hours: Black History Month

This exhibit offers free admission and light refreshments will be provided. In honor of Black History Month, visitors can experience a photographic history of Ship Island's African American Native Guard, which was crucial in the shaping of the modern-day United States. Isiah "Ike" Edwards a U.S. Air Force Veteran who served in Vietnam will present “A Historical Introduction to the Native Guard” at 5 pm. Mr. Edwards has conducted extensive research on African-American military history. He will speak on the origins and motives of African Americans that voluntarily served in the Union Army to change the power dynamics set by an oppressive system.